3 More Horses Die in ‘Susanville Graveyard for Horses’ Cruelty Case

Sand, rocks and debris claim the lives of 2 year old filly and 2 unborn foals

As the case against Dwight Bennett, the man accused of over 60 counts of animal cruelty, makes its way to court in Susanville, California this January, the years of abuse and neglect that the 56 horses from Susanville endured before being rescued by The Grace Foundation of Northern California have sadly taken the lives of some of the younger victims.

A 2 year old filly named Peanut died earlier this month from complications stemming from large amounts of sand, rocks, and other debris found in her belly during a necropsy preformed after her death. In addition to Peanut’s death, two of the mares have miscarried their foals due to similar complications. Although horses typically ingest a small amount of dirt and sand while grazing, the amount that is being found in the 56 Susanville horses has turned into a medical nightmare.

“During a cruelty case, we all feel a sense of relief for the horses, knowing that once they are at the ranch we can ensure that they are getting the proper feed and care. To watch a 2 year old die and know that there is nothing medically that you can do to save her is devastating. The fact that it was entirely preventable makes it that much harder to handle for the caretakers involved,” says Beth DeCaprio, Executive Director and Founder of The Grace Foundation.

Under the care of Grace Foundation veterinarian Dr. Michael Russell the Susanville horses are all being monitored and receiving daily psyllium in an effort to remove some of the sand and debris from their bellies. This has added additional cost and daily care to this already expensive and time consuming case.

“Without the help of our incredible volunteers and the support of the community there is no way that The Grace Foundation could be doing everything we are for these horses. As difficult as it is to ask for help we know that with 22 mares giving birth in the next 4 months we will need the continued support of the community,” says DeCaprio. “Our volunteers and donors have made the impossible possible and have made miracles come true for these poor horses,” she adds.

The Grace Foundation is hoping that people who are looking for a final donation to make for the end of this year will put it toward the Gracefoal fund they have established to help cover the more than $250,000 they are estimating it will cost to care for the mothers and foal over the next year.

With the year ending The Grace Foundation also wants to thank the community for making it possible for these horses to have the opportunity at life that they now do. “This case is sad but watching a community unify has been our saving grace,” says DeCaprio. The Grace Foundation is inviting the media out to see how much the horses have improved and what a community can accomplish when everyone comes together.


In April, The Grace Foundation was called in to take custody the first 20 horses involved in this case, after Mr. Bennett willing surrendered them to Lassen County Animal Control.

In August, Wells Fargo foreclosed on Mr. Bennett’s property. The remaining 36 horses where then turned over to The Grace Foundation by Wells Fargo along with a grant to help with the initial medical care and feed for these horses.

The plan was to get these horses adopted out into new homes as quickly as possible. But in a bureaucratic twist that was not foreseen, Mr. Bennett filed for bankruptcy, in September, and the horses became assets in his bankruptcy case.

In late October, Mr. Bennett was arrested and charges were brought against him for animal cruelty and neglect as well as for the methamphetamine that was found in his possession. During his arrest, 28 horses and 3 dogs were found dead on Bennett’s property.

Mr. Bennett’s arraignment will be held January 3, 2012 at 1:30pm at the Susanville Court House.

Without a ruling from the bankruptcy court and with a trial pending for the cruelty case, The Grace Foundation finds itself carrying the enormous financial and time consuming burden of caring for all of the 56 horses, and soon 22 foals, while it waits for a ruling from the courts.

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