Horses, Other Animals Seized During Vermont Cruelty Investigation

The owner of the organization the animals were seized from denied they were mistreated

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More than 20 animals, more than half of them horses, are in foster homes in Vermont after they were seized by police and advocates for animal welfare — amid an investigation into alleged animal cruelty.

Investigators with Vermont State Police said the animals weren’t being sheltered or cared for properly at a property in Tunbridge.

"They were in bad shape, and if we had not intervened, it would’ve only gotten worse," said Tiffany Vittum, a horse trainer at Dorset Equine Rescue, which is caring for some of the animals after the seizure.

Vermont State Police said this weekend that a volunteer at a different rescue organization, Hoofbeats and Dreams Farm, tipped off authorities that care there had fallen way below where it should be.

Troopers with a warrant found 13 horses, a mini mule, a llama, and six dogs living in substandard conditions at Hoofbeats and Dreams, according to investigators. The animals were seized Friday, police said.

Dorset Equine Rescue said when they examined the animals, several of the horses were underweight, one had a bleeding wound, and another even had a serious fly-infested eye infection.

"We’re just really happy that we can be here to help the horses and nurse them back to health and get them the proper care that they need," said Jen Straub, the founder and executive director of Dorset Equine Rescue.

Debra Densmore, 55, of Tunbridge, is accused of animal cruelty, a Vermont State Police media release read.

In an emailed statement from Hoofbeats and Dreams Farm, Densmore responded with a vehement denial of that accusation, similar to what she told the Bennington Banner newspaper Monday. 

In the email to NECN & NBC10 Boston, Densmore described the investigation as "all one-sided," and said no authorities ever asked her about the care she provided for the animals. That includes deep-tissue massage and reiki, Densmore insisted. She also claimed in the email to the news stations that there were no injuries to the horses that were going ignored — saying an accidental leg wound to one horse was recent and was being treated, and that the eye infection in the other horse was also being tended to. 

"All because of one person with a vendetta and my family is put through hell," Densmore wrote, summarizing the experience of the animal seizure which she said has upset her 15-year-old daughter and involved several animals that didn’t belong to her.

A court date for Densmore is expected July 7 in Orange County, according to the Vermont State Police media release that accused her of violating rules around providing care and shelter for animals.

In the meantime, community donations and a veterinarian are helping Dorset Equine Rescue care for the seized animals, with the goal of getting them all adopted to safe homes.

"To be able to take a horse that looks like that, and be able to bring her back to health and find them a home — it comes full circle, and it’s very rewarding," Vittum said, gesturing to a horse with ribs visible through its sides.

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