State vet declines to visit Suffolk mare

Published 10:09 pm Monday, October 7, 2019


The state Office of Veterinary Services has twice declined to visit Suffolk to provide a second opinion on the case of an emaciated horse that has gone viral on social media, according to city officials.

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

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City spokeswoman Diana Klink stated in an email Monday that Suffolk Animal Control went to the location on Friday — one of 17 times in all they have been there since January. Emergency Communications received more than 30 calls from the public regarding the horse on the day shift on Friday, Klink stated.

She said the horse is under the care of Dr. John Sangenario of Dominion Equine Clinic, and that he has diagnosed the horse with pleuritis, or fluid in the chest cavity. He is still running tests, Klink stated.

According to, symptoms of pleuritis include loss of appetite and weight loss. Pleuritis is often a complication of other diseases, such as equine influenza or pneumonia, the website states.

Klink said Suffolk Animal Control contacted the Office of Veterinary Services for the state of Virginia on Friday and Saturday to request a visit for a second medical opinion. Both requests were declined, Klink stated.

“Staff was advised by Dr. Carolyn Bissett following review of treatment by Dr. John Sangenario that it was believed, ‘… he was going down the right path and was a reasonable course of action,’” Klink wrote in an email. Dr. Bissett also noted she “…trusted Dr. Sangenario due to his many years of experience and that (she) would not do anything different,” according to Klink’s email.

Klink stated William Shelton, who identified himself to the News-Herald on Friday as a friend of the owner, is actually the owner of the mare, which he said is named Lalique.

Elaine Lidholm, director of communications for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, stated in an email that “We have been in contact with local animal control and they are handling.” On Friday, she had said in an email that most of the state veterinarians were at the state fair in Doswell, which ended on Sunday.

Over the weekend, Dominion Equine Clinic posted on Facebook, “Thank you Facebook community for your concern over the care and welfare of this horse. We have heard you and would like you to know the horse has been receiving medical care for several weeks and care on a daily basis. We ask you to trust us as medical professionals to make the best decision for the treatment of this horse. We have been in constant contact with Suffolk Animal Control about the specific treatments for this horse. Along with the medical care she is receiving, the horse will need time to show improvement. That’s what we are giving her. Thank you again for your concern.”

Multiple people left negative reviews for the clinic on its Facebook page over the weekend, with a few defenders leaving positive reviews and questioning the negative ones.

Also over the weekend, the clinic removed a portion of its website that listed its doctors and their qualifications, which now goes to an error page.

A Facebook page, “Justice for Starving horse in Hampton Roads,” was created Saturday and has 284 likes as of Monday evening.

William Shelton did not answer calls on Monday seeking an update on Lalique and answers to further questions.