Horses Abandoned in Foreclosure Crisis

Horses Abandoned in Foreclosure Crisis

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PERRIS, Calif. – Ranches have not been spared from the tidal wave of foreclosures. Horses, pigs, goats and dozens of other animals have been abandoned on ranches across California’s Inland Empire, after their owners lost their property in the housing crisis.

Animal shelters like Meadowbrook Animal Sanctuary & Haven (MASH) now have more than 50 horses, many of them rescued from abandoned pastures, where their former owners left them tied up, starving and often with infected wounds.

“When someone loses their house, they can rent an apartment and take their pets with them. But with these animals, families can’t afford to pay a center to take care of them or even feed them. They don’t have the money and they leave them behind,” said Bonnie Montoya-May, a spokesperson for MASH.

Because they lived on large properties in cities like Perris, Mira Loma and Norco, many families chose to have horses, mules or small livestock as pets – animals that they later left helpless.

Despite this crisis, there are only four rescue centers for livestock and farm animals in the entire county of Riverside. All are at full capacity. In San Bernardino, it’s the same story.

Heavenly Horse Haven in the city of Perris is home to more than 30 horses, llamas and sheep. The shelter has had to turn away applications from other animal owners who can no longer afford their pets and are looking for help.

The Southern California Association for Miniature Potbellied Pigs (SCAMPP), based in downtown Riverside, shelters 34 pigs who were abandoned or abused.

John Welsh, spokesperson for the Department of Animal Services in Riverside, said the adoption rate is falling and the wave of homeless animals continues to rise, which has further exacerbated the crisis at animal shelters.

Gonzalo Bautista, a resident of Mira Loma, about 45 minutes outside of Los Angeles, told La Opinión he had rescued three horses that were abandoned on neighboring property.

"It's a shame they would do that to an animal. The horses I found were skin and bones. They were hungry and their legs were injured,” he said.

His neighbor Linda Henningsen took in two other horses and a pony that had been abandoned near her home.

“A lot of them are in such bad shape they can’t survive,” she said.

Henningsen says it costs an average of $300 to $400 a month to care for a horse.

If they aren’t rescued, these animals end up on the other side of the border, where their meat is processed for animal feed, according to the MASH spokesperson.

“California law prohibits euthanasia of horses, so they are auctioned off and the buyers resell them and send them to Mexico where they are killed and the meat and hide are used for other purposes,” said Montoya-May.

In addition to the 50 horses, MASH currently has 125 other animals, including pigs, donkeys, turkeys, goats and geese, whose upkeep costs up to $9,000 a month.

The Meadowbrook animal shelter, which operates on a volunteer basis, nearly went into foreclosure itself. But thanks to several anonymous donations, it was able to stay open.

“There was an Argentine woman who lives in Los Angeles who gave us the largest donation. Without her, none of this would have been possible,” says Montoya-May.

Beyond revealing that the woman grew up on a ranch in Argentina, is over 70 years old and loves animals, the identity of the donor is unknown.

The woman preferred to remain anonymous, even though she contributed more than $200,000 to the animal shelter.

“Hispanics have been key to this center. Another Latina, Irma Flores, talked with politicians and activists and managed to stop the bank from foreclosing on the shelter. But supporting and maintaining the shelter requires a lot of money and work. We are really facing a difficult time and we need everyone’s help,” said the volunteer.

If you would like to contribute:
Meadowbrook Animal Sanctuary & Haven (MASH) needs volunteers or donations. Address: 20773 Riverside St., Perris.
Contact: (951) 505-7871 or