The Callosa de Segura 14
Rescued: March 7, 2014
The situation we encountered at Callosa de Segura can only be described as a living hell.
Nine donkeys and 14 horses were being kept in the most appalling conditions – chained to a wall 24 hours a day with very limited access to food and water, they were all literally starving.
This would be our biggest and most challenging rescue to date, but we knew we had to act – even though saving such a large number of horses at once would put huge strain on our centre, both financially and in terms of space in our fields.
Eventually, we would see the equines' former owner criminally convicted of animal abuse.
We were initially contacted by the National Association for the Defense of Animals (in Spanish, La Asociación Nacional para la Defensa de los Animales) and El Refugio del Burrito, a major donkey rescue organisation based in Malaga, with roots in the United Kingdom.
The two animal rights organisations had made a criminal complaint against the owner of the yard, who allegedly neglected his animals after going bankrupt.
El Refugio del Burrito had received legal permission to seize the nine donkeys from the building, but couldn’t proceed without also removing the 14 horses on the Callosa de Segura property, located about half an hour northeast of Murcia.
But who in Spain would take 14 near-death horses? We would, of course. So after El Refugio del Burrito contacted us for help, we jumped into action.
The rescue day was a mammoth effort. Once we arrived, we witnessed just how terribly these animals had been treated.
The horses and donkeys were all filthy, terrified and stick-thin, chained to walls inside a falling-down building. The stallions were wild and trying to attack anyone who went near them. On top of all that, the bankrupt owner was so irate authorities were concerned he would have a heart attack.
Eventually, we brought all 14 horses home. We named them Maverick, Harley, Wally, Chance, Alice, Freeda, Bettina, Moon, Sally, Maisy, Grace, EJ, Rosie and Liberty.
To our astonishment, just two weeks after the rescue, Liberty gave birth to a healthy foal – an incredible feat considering her extremely malnourished condition. Sadly though, Lily the foal soon became an orphan after we lost Liberty due to intestinal problems from a prior injury. Two operations were performed to try to save Liberty, but unfortunately there was nothing that we could do to save her.
But little Lily was immediately adopted by Rosie, who had been chained next to Liberty before their rescue from the squalid Callosa de Segura property. You can read more about their heartwarming story here.
We believe this rescue was probably the largest in Spain’s history, yet we receive no financial support from the government nor courts which asked us to remove the horses.
As at May 2016, we had spent more than €66,000 on the rescue of these horses, including feed, veterinary care, horse hospital bills and the farrier.
In late June 2016, the long-running legal case against the equines' former owner finally concluded. He received a nine-month suspended prison sentence and was banned from owning or trading in equines for three years.
We felt somewhat angry by this outcome. Yes, the man was criminally convicted – a major step forward for animal welfare in Spain. Yet because of a plea bargain agreement, his prison sentence was suspended and he was not made to pay a fine nor face court publicly.
We feel as though this man, who inflicted so much suffering on these animals and cost so many people so much money, got off almost scot-free.
We have managed to cover the cost of caring for these 14 horses using generous donations from our supporters, funds raised through our charity stores, and money from our very own hip pocket. Unfortunately, there are currently no tax concessions or financial support for charities in Spain, even as we provide an essential service to authorities. It seems ridiculous that the former owner does not have to pay a single cent.
Nonetheless, we are so pleased to see these horses now enjoying life at our rescue centre. The stallions, now castrated, have gradually tamed and no longer fear human contact.
The remaining horses spend their days in the fresh air and sunshine, and will never again be chained to walls.
In December 2015 we said goodbye to Wally, who was in his 30s and died peacefully in his sleep of natural causes, which is a lovely way for an old horse to go. On August 18, 2016 we were also devastated to suddenly lose Bettina, who presented with symptoms of colic and was rushed to the Alicante horse hospital where surgery revealed an obstruction in her intestine and she couldn't be saved.
Life has certainly changed for these beautiful animals, and they’re enjoying every moment of their second chance. Seeing their happiness and return to health is exactly the reason we move heaven and earth to rescue them and so many others.
As a non-profit foundation staffed almost entirely by volunteers, we rely on your donations to continue our work to save horses like the Callosa 14, and to cover their ongoing feeding and care costs. Find out how you can help here.