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February 12, 2015

Free-roaming horses growing problem in Eastern Kentucky

For years it's been a common, if often unauthorized, practice in the coalfields of Kentucky's Appalachian Mountains — grazing horses on reclaimed surface mines.

But state animal welfare groups say the recession and increased wild breeding since 2009 have expanded the free-roaming population of horses into what some estimate to be thousands — and the mix of owned, abandoned and wild-born horses is causing growing concern.

Untended horses have faced illness or malnourishment, particularly during winter. And local officials say they're wandering into some populated areas, causing traffic hazards and damage to crops and houses. Herds of horses also have required some mine owners to undergo expensive replanting of federally mandated land reclamation.

"It's a major problem," said David Ledford, a biologist and president of the Appalachian Wildlife Foundation, who has worked with coal companies in restoring land and wildlife to surface mining areas.

The Kentucky Humane Society this spring will launch a series of free gelding or castration clinics in hopes of keeping the population of free-roaming Appalachian herds in check. It also is recruiting a network of foster barns and partner organizations for adoptions of unwanted or endangered horses.

"We need at least to stop the growth. If we don't, we're going to get a totally unmanageable population," said Ginny Grulke, a representative of the nonprofit Kentucky Horse Council, which is also working on the issue.

Grulke's group is backing a bill introduced this week by Rep. Tom McKee, D-Cynthiana, which would reduce the time required to hold a stray horse before it can be adopted from 90 to 10 days, meant to encourage cash-strapped rural Kentucky counties to take in more stray horses.

In Knott County, for example, Judge-Executive Zachary Weinberg said the increased public safety and horse welfare problems often "fall on the county. And we're supposed to keep them for 90 days, but we don't have the budget," he said.

It's not known exactly how many horses there are on reclaimed surface mine sites, which range in size from a few acres to thousands of acres. Many are owned or leased by mining companies.

During inventories last year, Humane Society President Lori Redmon said her group counted nearly 440 free-roaming horses in several southeast Kentucky counties, including Knott and Breathitt, but that foraging and other patterns suggested the number was three times as many. One herd contained 112 horses, and a third of them were foals, she said.

"I'd say within a five-county area, we're talking thousands," she said, noting that while the group is seeking funding to conduct a more accurate aerial count, the population is already known to be unsustainable with too many horses pregnant, sick, malnourished or causing problems.

The practice of grazing horses on what some refer to as "strip jobs" — former coal mines, some flattened by mountaintop removal — has gone on for years in a mountainous area where homes can cling to hillsides or sit in narrow valleys, Ledford said.

Krinda Bailey of Martin said her father, who has since passed away, was part of a group of owners who took horses to reclaimed sites in Breathitt County in the early 1990s, regularly visiting, feeding and caring for them "before the overpopulation they have now."

"They had what they called the 'Gentleman's Rule,' " she said. "If you had a stud ... you either went and got your horse off the strip job, or you took it to the vet and got it cut."

Some land or mine owners didn't mind when there were fewer horses grazing; others were never asked permission, said Tonya Conn, who runs Dumas Rescue in Floyd County, Ky., which works with stray horses.

According to the Kentucky Humane Society, it started becoming a bigger problem after the recession began in 2008, which led more horses to be left unattended or dumped on the reclaimed sites. As wild breeding increased, so did the population — and the problems, which went beyond added costs to coal companies.

"Winter last year was horrible. In some areas, grazing was non-existent. So you had horses coming off in droves, walking into roadways and getting hit and killed," Conn said. "Horses were starving; they're coming into rural areas and destroying yards, eating paint off of cars" because of the road-salt that was on them.

Grulke doesn't expect the use of reclaimed sites to go away but said efforts will target rescuing horses in danger and eventually stabilizing or reducing the population.

"There's no wholesale roundup planned, that's just not feasible. There aren't enough homes or funding. The approach will be simply to take care of ones that do come down off a mountain and cause a public hazard, or are obviously starving or diseased," Grulke said.

Focusing at first on a handful of counties including Knott, Floyd and Breathitt this spring, the Kentucky Humane Society will offer services such as vaccines and gelding to owned horses. Officials hope owners will bring horses down from old surface mine sites for care and that wild horses coming into contact with humans can be gelded and adopted.

Among the challenges will be identifying which horses are not owned, which Redmon estimates to be about half the population. Grulke said she wants to ensure that owners are notified before adoptions are made through public announcements and an online effort.

Another challenge will be finding enough people willing to adopt a horse, which would average $3,000 a year. Feral or horses born wild to domesticated horses, unaccustomed to humans, are typically more difficult to place, Redmon said.

"I think there's starting to become a cultural shift, because people are realizing it's becoming unsustainable," said Justine Saudan, director of strategic initiatives for the Humane Society.

By Chris Kenning
The Courier-Journal

Date: 02-05-2015

Heather D. Pereira, 23, is taken into custody Tuesday in Hardin Circuit Court after a judge ruled she violated her bond for not submitting to a drug screening. She pleaded not guilty to cutting a dog to receive pain medication prescribed to help the animal heal.An Elizabethtown woman accused of intentionally cutting her dog to receive pain medication for herself was taken into custody following an appearance in Hardin Circuit Court.

During her arraignment Tuesday, a court employee that reported Heather D. Pereira, 23, failed to take a drug screening Jan. 26, which violated her $2,500 bond, and many calls to numbers she provided went unreturned.

Her public defender, Kate McCubbin, said Pereira didn’t think she had to do drug screens and requested a reduction in her recommended $10,000 cash bond.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Chris McCrary argued the bond was set appropriately because Pereira was a risk to herself and others.

“The nature of the charges are very disturbing,” said Circuit Judge Kelly Mark Easton when reviewing the bond. “Unfortunately, endangering herself and others doesn’t include animals, but it does include the community.”

Easton said he saw “no reason” to alter the bond.

McCubbin entered a not guilty plea on Pereira’s behalf to five charges of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud or a false statement and three charges of first offense torture of a dog.

According to police, Pereira admitted during questioning she cut her 4-year-old retriever with her husband’s disposable razor blades in hopes of obtaining Tramadol for her own use. It is a narcotic-like pain reliever used to treat moderate to severe pain.

Veterinarian Chad Bailey at Elizabethtown Animal Hospital, where Pereira took the dog, said in early December, the dog, named Alice, had two cuts to her right flank area that required between six and eight stitches to close.

When Pereira arrived at the veterinary office on Ring Road, it was the third time since Oct. 17 she had been there to get medication for her dog — twice for cuts.

Bailey said the frequency of Pereira’s visits and the nature of the wounds made her latest visit suspicious.

According to an arrest warrant, Pereira cut the dog three times. Alice was taken Oct. 1 to the Jefferson County Animal Hospital on the Outer Loop, where she was given Tramadol.

Alice also was treated for cuts to her left side Oct. 17 in Elizabethtown and again prescribed Tramadol. Three days later, Pereira returned to Elizabethtown Animal Hospital and told officials that her child had flushed the pills down the toilet. She was given 10 more tablets, enough for about five days of use for the dog, Bailey said.

Police say Pereira has no children.

According to the warrant, she claimed to have taken “3 or 4 of the pills and gave the rest to the dog.”

Attempting to obtain a controlled substance by making false statements is a Class D felony punishable by one to five years in prison for each charge, if convicted.

Pereira has a previous arrest for third-degree possession of a controlled substance in July.

Pereira remains lodged in Hardin Coun ty Detention Center in lieu of a $10,000 cash bond. Her next court appearance is a pretrial conference at 1:15 p.m. March 17.

Date: 12-05-2014;

Police: Woman injured dog to get pain meds for herself...

By Jeff D'Alessio
The News-Enterprise

PereiraAn Elizabethtown woman is in the Hardin County Detention Center after she was arrested Thursday afternoon and charged with cutting her dog with a razor in order to acquire pain medication for her own use.

Heather D. Pereira, 23, of the 200 block of Oaklawn Drive, reportedly admitted during police questioning to cutting her 4-year-old Golden Retriever in hopes of obtaining Tramadol, a narcotic-like pain reliever used to treat moderate to severe pain.

She cut the dog three times, according to an arrest warrant. Twice the dog was taken to the Elizabethtown Animal Hospital on Ring Road and once to a Jefferson County facility. The dog was treated on Oct. 1, Oct. 17 and Dec. 4. Pereira was given Tramadol Oct. 1 at the Jefferson County Animal Hospital on Outer Loop and then Oct. 17 in Elizabethtown.

When she arrived Thursday, a veterinarian became suspicious of the injuries.

According to the warrant, she claimed to have taken "3 or 4 of the pills and gave the rest to the dog.'' She told authorities that she cut the dog with disposable razor blades.

She appeared Friday morning in Hardin District Court and is being held on a $5,000 cash bond.

She is charged with three counts of first-offense torture of a cat or a dog, a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison,. She also is charged with three counts of attempt to obtain a controlled substance by making false statements, a Class D felony punishable by up to five years in prison on each charge.


Date: 12-29-2014;

Family rebuilding goat herd after fire;

By Lisa King

Kathy Mejia’s eyes filled with tears as she held her week-old baby goat. It is the first baby born after her herd was devastated in a fire in May.

“Here’s my little girl. Isn’t she precious?” she said, stroking Solomon’s Song, as the baby’s mother, Flower, nuzzled her 3-pound infant in a pen on Zaring Mill Road, where Mejia and her husband, Santiago, lost 55 of their 75 goats in a horrific barn fire caused when a bale of hay stored in the structure combusted.

Santiago Mejia looks on as his wife, Kathy, holds Solomon's Song, born Dec. 9, under the careful scrutiny of the doeling's mother, Flower. The couple lost every female and every baby in the fire, and had only males left, so they turned to the community for help, and soon had several does donated to them.

Flower, a Nigerian Dwarf, was the first doe they received, from a couple in Owingsville.

Kathy Mejia said they did not set out to breed her right away, as she was still a bit young for that, but put her in a pen of her own, separate from the males. However, they had one male, Solomon, that had been very badly injured in the fire and could not hold his own with the others, so they put him in Flower’s pen.

“She was lonely and he was lonely, so during the day, they ran together in the pasture,” she said. “Not thinking it was possible for them to breed, but surprise, surprise!”

The Mejias have built their herd back up from 20 to 45. Six Nigerian does were given to them from people around the state and in Ohio, and they acquired four more. They also bought one buck and nine Alpine does from Howard and Joanna Shelburne who sold the remainder of their Alpine goat dairy herd that was left after they suffered a horrific barn fire in March 2013, when they lost 30 prize dairy goats. The family had been heavily into showing goats for nearly 50 years.

The Mejias had been worried about where they would house a herd even if they could rebuild it, but that problem has been solved, at least temporarily.

“My parents built an addition on the back of their barn for us. We’re cramped, but we’re in there for the time being,” said Kathy Mejia, standing in the pen at the home of her parents, Ray and Dottye Smith, who live next door.

“We have to be out in a barn by April because that’s when we’ll start kidding.”

She said she and her husband plan to build two small barns by then.

Mejia said the new goats are really working out well, which will enable them to continue their livelihood.

“Four of theirs [Shelburnes] were already in milk and they [Alpines] give twice as much as the Nigerians give,” she said. “So, wow, we have all this milk now, it’s great! Slowly but surely, we’re getting on our feet.”

Mejia said they could not have done it without the generous support of people around the community and even the state.

“We had some money given to us, and we bought the rest of the goats we got with donations,” she said. “It really gave us a good start so we can do what we need to do before spring, because if we miss another spring and summer, oh, Lordy.”

She expressed gratitude at the generosity of the community.

“We are so very thankful to everyone who gave donations of money and items, because all of it put together brought us to where we are,” she said. “We’re extremely grateful for everything.”

The couple got into the business seven years ago because Kathy has to stay home to take care of a disabled daughter. They sell products made of the goat milk.

“Now we have enough milk to use for drinking, cooking, making cheese, soap and fudge,” she said. “My mom, Dottye Smith, makes all of our goat milk yogurt and chocolate syrup. We will be selling fudge for the holidays and will start selling soap in January.”

They are even going to try out something new; they plan to build a greenhouse and try growing vegetables.

“That’s something new for us, so I guess something good came out of the barn fire,” she said.

The couple will be kidding registered and nonregistered Mini-Oberhaslis, Mini-Alpines, La Manchas, and Nigerian goats in the spring.



Turkeys' story is America's story, from conservation to suburbanization; don't mess with wild ones...

(Photo from National Wild Turkey Federation)

As you enjoy turkey this week, remember the wild version of the bird, whose history traces that of America and its conservation and environmental movements, and which is getting more familiar.

"It’s almost miraculous that the wild turkey didn’t join the unfortunate ranks of such extinct birds as the passenger pigeon and Carolina parakeet," writes Bryan Stevens in his "For the Birds" column in the Bristol Herald Courier. "Habitat destruction and a merciless commercial slaughter almost claimed the wild turkey, another uniquely American bird. Ironically, the wild turkey’s valued status as a game bird helped persuade many Americans to fight for its conservation. It’s an effort that succeeded admirably. Today, there are about seven million wild turkeys roaming North America."

Stevens adds, "Interest in the wild turkey as a game bird even inspired the establishment of the National Wild Turkey Federation, which is a national nonprofit organization that serves as a leader in upland wildlife habitat conservation in North America." Stevens also offers many biological details about the turkey, and the old story about Benjamin Franklin saying it should have been made the national symbol, adding that George Washington agreed with Franklin.

The turkey's comeback is ruffling feathers in some suburbs, Michael Rosemwald writes for The Washington Post. "The soaring population has been a godsend for hunters, who are killing record numbers of wild turkeys, even in mostly suburban counties like Montgomery," in Maryland. "But their resurgence is not without drama. Sometimes small delegations of wild turkeys wander into residential neighborhoods on failed exploratory missions for good grub or companionship. For people unaccustomed to seeing turkeys, their appearances are entertaining and occasionally unnerving."

Rosemwald's story begins with an account of a turkey attack on members of a church in Frederick, Md., which led to production of a Destination America show, "When Turkeys Attack," scheduled to premiere at 10 p.m. ET Wednesday. Meanwhile, here's a Post video of wild turkeys in action:

Written by Al Cross Posted at 11/25/2014 07:47:00 AM