South Dakota reaches settlement transferring control of 520 at-risk horses; public’s help needed in massive rescue operation

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Horses endure blizzard-like conditions in Lantry, S.D.

Jan. 28, 2017 – South Dakota state’s attorneys have reached a settlement agreement with the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros that will transfer control of 520 horses.

After 810 horses were originally impounded on Oct. 11, 2016, by the court in Ziebach and Dewey Counties, 270 horses were adopted in spite of challenging circumstances.

Other terms of the agreement include ISPMB retaining up to 20 of the remaining horses under a modified impoundment period of 18 months.

The settlement sets the stage for one of the largest known equine rescue and adoption efforts in U.S. history by allowing the wild horses to be placed in safe homes rather than sold at auction, where they could fall into the hands of kill buyers who would transport them to Canada or Mexico for slaughter.

State’s attorneys in Ziebach and Dewey Counties on Jan. 5 filed the motion requesting that the management and placement of the horses be turned over to a suitable caretaker. Fleet of Angels, an organization that provides emergency assistance and transportation to at-risk equines in the United States and Canada, will assume that role.

Fleet of Angels has received a large number of applications for the 520 horses included in the settlement agreement. Horses will be placed in approved homes, sanctuaries and rescues. Since October, Fleet of Angels with heroic efforts from Palomino Armstrong and her team in blizzard conditions, have been able to adopt out and transport 270 of the 810 ISPMB horses.

Fleet of Angels’ executive director Elaine Nash, who is spearheading the effort said, “After almost four months of working nearly around the clock to get these horses out of an extremely cold and inhospitable environment, it’s nice to now have the freedom to relocate them to a more suitable adoption hub. We have been anxious to relocate the horses to a facility where each horse can be properly vetted and readied for their adopters or one of the participating Fleet of Angels transporters to pick them up and take them to safe, new homes.  When we say ‘Teamwork works,’ we mean it!  Without the efforts of the many concerned people who are helping with this mission in a variety of ways, a massive emergency rescue like this could never be possible.”

Return to Freedom, an organization known nationally for its work with wild horses, has also played a vital role in providing solutions that averted an auction scheduled for Dec. 20, when where many of the horses likely would have been lost to the slaughter pipeline.

“RTF will continue to partner with Fleet of Angels, Wild Horse and Burro Sanctuary Alliance members and other partners to do what we can to facilitate the responsible placement of stallions, bonded horses and whole herds when possible,” said Neda DeMayo, president of Return to Freedom.

The Humane Society of the United States, the Griffin-Soffel Equine Rescue Foundation and another national equine welfare organization generously contributed toward a fund to cover what the counties expended in feeding and caring of the horses since October, when state and local authorities impounded the 810 ISPMB wild horses following a finding of neglect. Their contributions made it possible to prevent the horses from going to auction.

The health of the wild horses varies. While some are in good condition, many are underweight. Some also suffer from blindness or vision impairment.

Fleet of Angels and its partners, Return to Freedom and the Wild Horse and Burro Sanctuary Alliance, need the public’s support to pay for veterinary and farrier care, feed and transportation. Feed costs alone are $40,000 per month. That and other expenses will continue to mount — making donations absolutely critical to successfully getting these horses adopted to new homes.

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How the public can help

Feed and Care Fund: The public can support the wild horses while adoptions continue by donating to a fund created to for feed, veterinary care, and all other costs related the lifesaving mission for the ISPMP horses by donating to the Wild Horse and Burro Sanctuary Alliance.

Adopt:  Over 200 people have applied to adopt two or more of these special horses. However, Fleet of Angels and partners are hoping to get more of the horses adopted in family bands, larger groups and herds. Anyone who is interested in adopting some of these horses in larger bonded groups please contact: Fleet of Angels at or on the ISPMB Horses / Emergency Adoption Mission page on Facebook.

About the participating organizations
Fleet of Angels is a not-for-profit organization with thousands of on-call members who offer crisis management and transportation assistance during equine-related emergencies, as well as other services. The organization oversees the coordination of hundreds of successful equine-related emergency missions in the U.S. and Canada each year, with each mission involving from one horse to many.

Wild Horse and Burro Sanctuary Alliance
Return to Freedom, Habitat for HorsesBlack Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, and Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue formed the alliance to provide a supportive and more cohesive community for wild horse and burro sanctuaries.