LANTRY, S.D. (CN) – The wild horses from a troubled sanctuary in rural South Dakota will go up for sale at public auction on Dec. 20, according to Dewey County officials who are currently caring for the horses.
The Dewey and Ziebach County sheriffs’ departments took custody of the more-than 800 horses belonging to the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros in October, after a former employee went public with documentation of starvation and neglect on the ranch.
Since then, the society’s president, Erica Sussman, has been unable to convince the counties that she can raise enough money to adequately feed the horses over the next 18 months – a feat the counties say would require her to have $480,000 in reserve.
Dewey and Ziebach counties estimate they will expend about $100,000 total caring for the horses, and Sussman has paid back a little over half of that.
Sussman has also managed to adopt out or sell about 200 of the horses.
Last week, the Dewey County sheriff's department urged those who had been approved to adopt horses to retrieve them from the ranch soon.
“If you do not get your horses from the ISPMB then the next best option would be to buy them at the sale and save them there,” the department posted to its Facebook page.
The sale is taking place at the Philip Livestock Auction, after its regularly scheduled weekly cattle sale.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, the majority of horses sold at auction go to “kill buyers” who sell them to foreign slaughterhouses.
Proceeds from the sale will first go to reimburse the counties for the horses’ care, and remaining funds may be distributed to the society.
Officials say there is still time for other wild horse rescues to step in to save the remaining horses.
The ISPMB neither mentions the horses’ current crisis nor calls for help on its website.