As I write this, we’re just over a week away from the beginning of the Sherri Brunzell/Dual Peppy trial. Remember the first news report on that Friday afternoon, September 19, 2014? A neighbor had followed her dog into the barn to find ten acutely neglected horses and another fourteen dead on the ground, in various states of decomposition. Just to be clear: more than half the herd dead, sharing the same barn as the survivors.
Then the best/worst thing happened: one of the horses was recognized from photos on the news. He was the famous stallion, Dual Peppy. The local community was outraged already, but this drew the attention of horse owners around the world. The Sheriff’s Office told the public that the situation was in hand, although no vet had been called in. The community outrage grew; untold numbers of calls and emails were sent to the Sheriff’s Office from all over the country and parts of Europe. Three days later, a vet was called in and the survivors were transported to a safe place.
I think the second reason this case inspired so many emails and calls from the public was because the scene in the barn was easy to visualize. Reports said the manure was several feet deep, skeletons were left where they fell, some partially covered by tarps. The majority of the herd was dead–some reportedly as young as 3 years old. Photos were few, but the descriptions were so ugly that people outside the horse world were inflamed as well.
These victims were well-bred Quarter Horses with an estimated worth of over 1.5 million dollars, which is not to say their lives were worth more than a backyard horse, but it was more shocking and drew extra press attention. It’s a case that could help swing public opinion on horse welfare and eventually have an impact on horses with names like Blackie and Molly; horses with no famous relatives.
When the first explanations from the owner were made public, every horse owner in the county knew the excuses were as lame as these horses who needed emergency farrier care. Brunzell’s husband admitted “she doesn’t have a regular veterinarian due to expense and ‘unsatisfactory results.'” And “She felt it would be better to spend the money on feed for the horses than on veterinary bills.”
I remind you of the details of this horrific case because eight months have passed, including one postponed trial date. Outrage dims as time passes–after all, there are new atrocities every day. But these horses still remain in Limbo–they are still waiting.
Until the case is decided, the horses (and four llamas) are under the control and care of the Colorado Humane Society. They have gained weight, had veterinary care, and overdue farrier work. They have been safe from their owner who denied them the bare essentials required and left them hidden in a barn.
Our District Attorney feels the county has a good case, but if Ms. Brunzell wins, these horses will be returned to her.
Please stay tuned to the Horse Advocates Facebook page for locations, times, and updates. We will be in court from start to finish–please join us there if you can. A full courtroom sends an important message. Watch the news reports on television and post comments or call the station. Write a letter to the newspaper articulating your thoughts on this case. Talk about this story with your friends and share posts online.
Most of all, remember the 14 good horses who did not make it out of that dreadful barn. Remember those lost, as well as those who survived; remember this crime like it happened yesterday. Join Horse Advocates of Colorado in asking for a conviction with sentencing to the full extent of the law. Speak out and be heard.