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Horse ranch near Rancho Santa Fe investigated for alleged abuse

RANCHO SANTA FE — Animal services officials are investigating a ranch in an unincorporated area of San Diego near Rancho Santa Fe, where about 40 to 50 horses are allegedly receiving substandard care, according to multiple news reports.

Last week, San Diego County’s Department of Animal Services was called to the property in the 7600 block of Artesian Road. The department issued a statement to CBS8 that said officials received a call about a horse in distress at the property.

“Animal Services dispatched an officer to the scene and found one elderly horse down and trapped in mud,” the department said. “While the horse’s owner and veterinarian were contacted and responded quickly to provide humane euthanasia, the animal in question had unfortunately expired before euthanasia could be provided.

“There are additional horses on the large property, and, currently, Animal Services’ investigation is ongoing,” the statement continued. “The owner’s private veterinarian has indicated that they are onsite at the property several days a week to attend to resident animals. Animal Services Officers will conduct a thorough investigation to ensure the welfare of all animals on property. The Department of Animal Services is prepared to assist the property owner if needed.”

The ranch owner allegedly pointed a gun at a CBS8 photojournalist Friday evening, which contacted the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, the station said. A reporter and photojournalist were at the ranch to document horses who were allegedly being mistreated, with one horse having a “large gash on its leg, several limping, many looked emaciated with ribs, hips and their spine showing,” the reporter said.

A woman from the rescue group Saving Horses Inc. told CBS8 she saw horses without any hay on the ground eating manure. Audrey Reynolds, who has been rescuing horses for 16 years, said the fields where the horses stand look like manure has piled up for years.

The horse owners could not be reached for comment, and the Department of Animal Services could not be reached for further comment.

The owners of the property were identified by CBS8 as Craig Netwig and Debra Barkely. The pair are listed as thoroughbred racehorse breeders and owners by the industry website Equibase.

Mike Marten, public information officer for the California Horse Racing Board, told City News Service on Sunday that an initial search did not find any licenses issued by the CHRB to Netwig or Barkely.

“However, our licensing personnel and investigators will do their own search this coming week to determine conclusively,” Marten said.

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