By Mike Pound
The brown horse with the white spot on its forehead that my daughter and I were standing next to was just one of eight or nine gathered around a big, round bin eating from a large bale of hay.
For just a second, the horse stopped eating, raised its head and looked at me. Instinctively, I reached out to rub its head, but the horse sort of spooked and walked away from me. A minute or two later, it came back, this time standing next to my daughter, and started eating again. Then it stopped eating, raised its head and nudged my daughter's arm, so she tried to rub its head. This time, the horse accepted a human touch. The horse let my daughter pet it for a while and then went back to eating hay.
After another minute, it took a big bite of hay and turned to my daughter to be petted again. While she stroked the horse's head, I thought to myself, "How could you not care for this horse?"
It's a good question and one that David Butler understands. David, the director of the Carthage Humane Society, has seen a lot of cases of animal abuse and neglect, and has formed his own ideas about why people do what they do to animals. In David's mind, there are a lot of reasons folks neglect animals, and not all of them are inherently evil reasons.
"Sometimes people just get into a bind," David said. "They run into problems."
Don't misunderstand what David is saying. He's seen cases of extreme cruelty to animals. But he's also seen cases in which people have just gotten overwhelmed. But being overwhelmed isn't an excuse, he said.
"If you're having problems caring for your animal, call someone," he said. "Call the sheriff's department. Call someone like us. No matter what happens, it will be better than letting your animal suffer."
The horses that my daughter and I stopped by to see at the Humane Society were taken last week from property in Newton County. Sixteen originally were taken to the shelter, but one of the horses, a 6- to 8-week-old colt, had to be put down. Butler said it's possible that another horse suffering from hoof and leg problems might have to be killed.
The owner of the horses, Dianna Lynne Perkins, has been charged by Newton County Prosecutor Scott Watson with three counts of animal abuse.
It's a bad deal, and the type of thing that can make you angry. But to David, anger, at least right now, isn't the point. The point is doing everything he can to nurse the horses back to health.
David runs the Humane Society. He's not a prosecutor. He's not a judge. He doesn't know for sure who is responsible for the horses' condition. It's not his place to decide who is to blame. And really, he doesn't care about blame right now. He cares about the horses.
The horses, even after more than a week of food, water and loving attention, still look frail. Several have visible rib cages. The horse with the hoof and leg problems spends its time in a covered stall. But most of the horses are getting better, David said. They're getting stronger, and some of the life is coming back into their eyes.
He said that in abuse cases, horses are sometimes rated on a 1-to-5 scale, with 5 being the best.
"We've got a few that are at 4.5, but we've got some that are at 1.5 to 2," he said.
David won't know what will happen to the horses until the legal procedure runs its course. He just knows it's his job to take care of them.
It's an expensive job. The Carthage shelter does have a horse fund, but a herd of 15 can run that fund dry pretty quickly. So David could use some help. The shelter needs feed and hay. Hay, because it's a little harder to get right now, is a real need, David said. Folks have been very generous, but more hay and feed will be needed. So will cash to help pay for the medications that will be needed to ensure the horses' health.
If you would like to donate hay, feed or cash to the Humane Society's health fund, you can call the shelter at (417) 358-6402 or mail donations to the Carthage Humane Society, P.O. Box 1064, Carthage MO 64836
If at some point David gets the legal OK, the horses will be put up for adoption, but until then the Humane Society has the responsibility to care for and feed the animals. David said that's what he and his staff will do.
See, there's no time for anger or for judgment.
By Mike Pound