Matanuska-Susitna Borough

Animal Care calls Troopers in horse deaths

Palmer | Patty Sullivan | Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Animal Care & Regulation Division with the Matanuska-Susitna Borough has been asked by the Alaska State Troopers to delay acting on a case involving two dead horses in Wasilla, while Troopers investigate. At least one horse appears to have died from starvation. Animal Care officers first began responding to complaints about the horses last October at the home of Wasilla residents, Debra Nardini and Gary Fank.

In a three-month period, Animal Care responded to three complaints from neighbors and made three visits, while also responding to more than 600 other animal welfare cases. The horses appeared to be healthy. Photos show relatively normal-looking horses. Food was available on all three visits.

The complaints involved: inadequate food and water, inadequate shelter, and unrestrained horses; all of which were addressed at the time. "Our Animal Care officers are doing the best they can while facing impossible odds," said Borough Assemblywoman Mary Kvalheim. At that time, two officers were covering calls across nearly 25,000 square miles. "They care about animals and that's why they are in this job. I challenge the public to get involved in such instances and report abuses," Kvalheim said. "However, the ultimate responsibility for the welfare of a pet rests with its owner."

No written complaints or calls were received by Animal Care between Jan. 8, and March 6, when conditions for the horses took a serious turn for the worse. On March 6, Animal Care received a call from a neighbor reporting that one horse was dead and the other was being removed. The second horse was reportedly severely malnourished and was later euthanized.

The Animal Care officers are saddened and surprised by the deaths. In response to Animal Care warnings or citations at the end of 2005, the owners provided shelter, removed a barn floor, and restrained the horses. After the last visit on Jan. 8, Animal Care believed the owners were continuing to treat their animals properly. The Animal Care & Regulation Division awaits the findings of the Trooper investigation.