Viral horse post draws attention

Published 10:43 pm Friday, October 4, 2019

A viral Facebook post showing an emaciated horse in Suffolk caught the attention of animal-lovers across the country on Thursday night and Friday.

Tricia R. Bulls posted photos of the horse at the intersection of Buckhorn and Chappell drives on Thursday evening. The horse’s shoulder blades, spine, ribs and pelvis were all visible in the photos, which were shared thousands of times.

At 8:05 p.m. Thursday, the News-Herald reached out to city spokeswoman Diana Klink about the post, asking for follow-up on Friday morning.

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Klink stated in an email on Friday morning, “Please be advised that Suffolk Animal Control is aware of and is consistently following this issue. The mare in question is under veterinary care for a medical issue, not abuse. Further, the veterinarian has advised that the horse is not suffering.”

Asked if Suffolk Animal Control would be visiting the property on Friday to follow up, Klink would not confirm that.

“They are consistently following up and have had numerous conversations with the veterinarian treating the horse,” Klink stated.

Late Friday morning, Suffolk Police Department and Suffolk Animal Care posted a similar message on their Facebook pages. “Suffolk Animal Control will continue to monitor this issue and would like to thank the public for their concern and outreach,” part of the post stated.

Klink declined to answer further questions later in the day, including if Animal Control had been to the property on Friday, how many times they had been at the property in the last six months and how many calls they had received on Friday about the situation.

She also declined to answer other questions about the horse’s medical issue and whether any veterinarian had been asked for a second opinion.

“At this time, the only comment we have related to this issue is the information that was provided earlier today,” Klink stated shortly after 4 p.m.

Suffolk News-Herald staff went to the property twice on Friday to try to find the horse or its owner. No humans were in sight, but the horse in question was seen standing up in the barn. She did not appear to be tied but did not come to the fence in response to the humans standing there.

On the paper’s first visit, other horses could be seen, but it was difficult to tell the condition they were in due to distance and vegetation in the way. On the paper’s second visit, no other horses were visible.

Television station WVEC reported that several people arrived at the property Friday morning with food and water, trying to feed the mare, but it was unclear if they were successful in getting the horse to eat.

Reached by phone on Friday afternoon, Bill Shelton identified himself as a friend of the owner and said he has been heavily involved in helping with the horses for many years. But he declined to identify the owner or give out the owner’s contact information.

“There ain’t no need,” he said. “You’re just going to put it in the paper and cause more trouble.”

Shelton did, however, provide some information about the mare.

Her name is Lalique, he said, and she is an Arabian. She’s been kept by Shelton’s friend since she was a baby, Shelton said, and they had her mother before that.

“Lalique is a fine, fine animal,” he said. “She’s as good as she can be.”

Shelton said her medical issues started about a month ago. He said the veterinarian has done blood work to try to diagnose the problem and “given her four shots to get her to eat in the last, maybe, three weeks,” but it hasn’t worked.

“She’s got a big bale of hay there she’s had close to a month,” Shelton said.

He said Lalique, who he estimated is 20-some years old, also is fed alfalfa pellets twice a day and that she just started eating again the day before yesterday.

Shelton acknowledged Lalique looks bad but again defended the care he said she is receiving.

“We wouldn’t put a horse right on a road where people travel all day if we were trying to do something wrong,” he said.

Shelton also said the facility used to be used for breeding but is not anymore. He said there are about 70 horses in all.

He also mentioned a 2007 case in which he narrowly avoided jail time after cattle starved to death on his Ashburn Road farm. He said the cattle had a disease and that he was in cancer treatment in New York at the time.

According to a 2008 Daily Press article, a Suffolk judge gave him a 30-day sentence and ordered him to pay a $750 fine and reimburse expenses related to the case.