New Here & Seeking Advice
I am hoping to seek out advice on a situation I have recently found myself in - I would appreciate your opinions and any advice you could give me on how to back my case. I'm posting this in an effort to gain information, not to start a flame war.
Recently I have become the subject of an animal cruelty investigation regarding my 21 year old TB treated in July for a squamous cell carcinoma tumor in her mouth, located on the left side of her mandible along the gumline. I had the growth removed in July, but it has returned, very aggressively, and I believe is at least double the size it was previously. While I have continued to use Pennfields Fibergized Omega feed as recommended by the attending veterinarian since July, and have added vegetable oil and Source supplement, she has been unable to gain weight, and has lost more - she is on the skinny side, but her coat remains shiny and her temperament has remained the same as always. She is currently eating about 14lbs of feed per day, and is on a nice orchard grass hay which she gets approximately 1 bale per day (40-50lbs). I believe the location of her tumor is what is causing her continued weight loss as it has progressively made it difficult for her to eat, and perhaps she has developed other problems internally since her last clinic visit - cancer can be a cruel and unforgiving thing. Her personality has not wavered, she is still bright eyed and the boss in the field, despite her physical condition.
I have contacted OSU's cancer research program, and after conferring with the veterinarian there, the option to treat her there with radiation is out of my range. Dr. Green quoted $7,000 for the recommended 12 treatments, or $3,000 for 4. This is not possible for me to do, and he said that it may only buy her 6-10 months at best.
I have been putting off letting her go, because I felt that when she was ready to go, she would tell me - after all, we've been together 17 years and I know her better than anyone. She has yet to tell me she's ready. She's definitely not pretty to look at, but she gets around fine and never misses a meal. Unfortunately now AC is involved, and I must make a case that I have tried to help her, but she is unable to recover and I am unable to afford more expensive treatments that may only prolong the inevitable, and am unsure if euthanizing the animal will only further AC's case? Her attending veterinarian advised AC that the prognosis for her condition to improve was poor, but that she wasn't in any pain. My regular vet said that I'm well within my bounds to euthanize, as it is my horse, and the vet who treated her cancer also supported the decision but felt it was my choice and not to let AC dictate my decision.
The AC officer told me that I needed to feed round bales - I feed squares and find no difference except less waste and the quality of the squares are generally better - what is your opinion? I don't have the ability to store or move rolls, and at present I have 100+ bales (40-60lbs each) of a very nice orchard grass in the barn. I have fed rolls in the past when I can find good ones that are affordable, but the last few I was less than impressed with - a good roll around here will cost $40-50, the AC officer told me that she knew where I could find last year's hay for $15/roll. I prefer not to feed old hay when I have perfectly good hay already in the barn, and my supplier had 2000 more bales he is storing - I buy as I need it and he keeps it stored in the barn, which is convenient for me because I cannot buy it all at once.
The feed I use that was recommended to me by the vet who treated my cancer patient is Pennfields Fibergized Omega. Pennfields is the official feed of USEF and the US Olympic team, and is made in Lancaster, PA so when I get it, it's usually very fresh. The AC officer stated that she'd never heard of it, and when I explained it to her, she simply stated that mine weren't world class horses and that I should switch to something less expensive since my budget was tight. I switched all my horses to this feed in July, as it was appropriate for all of them, made feeding simpler, everyone liked it, and it was a better quality than what I previously had for only about $3 more per bag, granted I drive 10 minutes farther to get it. I offered to show her my feed room, supplements and oils that I use, she was not interested, nor did she want to look at an empty feed bag to educate herself. For the cancer patient and my stallion (more on him later), I add a cup of vegetable oil (100% soybean), and everyone receives Source supplement in their feed. Apples are currently in season here, so they all receive them with their feeding.
She is also looking at 2 other horses here - a 16yo blind appaloosa pony, who due to her disability which occurred suddenly in Nov. 2010 as the result of a well placed kick by another horse, has lost muscle tone which I believe she will never regain as she does little more than walk and stand in the paddock. I have had the mare for 15 years, and she has always been a bit squirrelly and suspicious. Now, I believe she has some anxiety issues from her loss of sight - whereas horses that lose their vision over time learn to adjust, hers was most likely almost immediate, and she had no time to acclimate. She eats about 8lbs of Fibergized daily, but remains a little ribby, and her hind end has no slope to it anymore - I think because she worries the weight away. She is the bottom of the pecking order in a field of four, but does well and always has access to hay and knows where the water is. I group feed to make it easier on me, but I monitor her until she's finished to make sure others don't steal her feed pan.
The other, a 12yo TB stallion, has always been a hard keeper since he was very young (and my regular vet informed AC of this..), and I feed him about 14-15lbs of Fibergized per day. I have seen improvement in him since the weather has cooled, he could probably use another 100lbs to flesh him out, but he will never be a big horse - he's fine boned and not at all made to be bulky. Earlier this year I battled with him against a persistent upper respiratory infection for about a month, which caused him to lose weight after I'd just about got him to a good size. He's also an extremely picky eater, and I was thrilled to find that he loved the new feed this summer. I have plans to geld him, possibly next month, as I was waiting for the weather to cool and the flies to disappear. My vet tells me that gelding him should help with his weight. He currently spends most of his time walking a fence line or standing in a corner looking at mares.
Thoroughbreds, in my experience, are known to be hard keepers - some more than others, and still others may have no issue at all. Animal control told me they had no problems keeping weight on TBs - I think it really depends on the horse...
All horses have access to clean water, hay (which I put out as needed as to attempt to prevent waste), they are fed grain daily, and have access to run-in type shelters. My paddocks and field are mostly dry lot as I have no grass, and are maintained to prevent them from becoming mucky - I drag and remove excess waste on a regular basis. I feed hay year-round and have for years.The type of hay I buy is usually a Timothy/Orchard mix, and sometimes features some alfalfa mixed in as well. I bought about 200 bales of a very nice orchard grass this year, and have been feeding that at present. All my horses are up to date on vaccinations and farrier work. Because I have a closed herd, with no new horses coming and going, I have never had a parasite problem.
I am trying very hard with limited funds to hold this together, and this new development has made it even harder. I do the best I can with what I've got, however this woman seems to really have it out for me. She dismissed much of the information I provided her, including what my vets had told me, and which they in turn told her when she talked to them - I don't feel that she got the answers she was looking for to support her case. I am pulling together paperwork, receipts, and other supporting information and will begin documenting everything. One of the AC officer's remarks was that I was not new to horses and had been around them for years, so I should have known better than to let them get in the state they are in, which will only support her case that I am neglectful. Everyone who knows me is aware that I have always cared for my animals, and even in recent years when it has become much harder financially, they have always had what they needed while I have gone without.
Does anyone have any advice or suggestions that may help me along in furthering my defense? I would appreciate any thoughts you may have.