From the outside, Circle H Ranch looks like a picture from a postcard with it's rolling valleys and tree lined acres of property on Case Road located in the city's north east section.
But that image can be deceiving. The real "living hell" as described to those close to the ranch is the state of the living quarters for some of the over 40 horses and several other animals on the farm.
On Friday morning, a search warrant on the farm issued through the Ontario SPCA and carried out by the Sault Ste. Marie Police force uncovered what many have been complaining about for years.
Cindy Ross, manager of the Sault Ste. Marie Humane Society spoke with LOCAL2news Saturday morning and explained that the case is still under investigation but confirmed that three of the 44 horses found on the property were seized along with 6 dogs.
"We've been working on this for a while" Ross said, "we wanted to make sure we had all our ducks in a row"
Circle H Ranch has been on the Ross's radar for quite awhile. Ross is a avid horse lover and has two of her own and knows quite well when a horse is suffering from not getting the care they need.
Ross has also been very busy orchestrating the plan to deal with the case, lining up volunteers to help remove the animals when the time came and how to care for them.
"The shelter is under great pressure looking after these animals" Over 100 bales of hay were delivered to the farm yesterday - donated by area farmers to help deal with the 41 horses that remain on the farm. Ross explained though that more action could be taken in the next few weeks meaning seizing even more of the horses that appear to be suffering from various degrees of malnutrition and disease.
"We need good quality hay for the horses"
The situation however seems to be more than just a case of animal abuse but of mental illness says a person close to the farm who wanted to remain anonymous. "I hope Rebbecca can get the help she needs"
The person told LOCAL2news that owner Rebbecca Hurley needs help to deal with her mental illness and said the family home is a typical case of hoarding and the unhealthy conditions of the barn and the animals were indicative of that.
The charges against Hurley include, causing/permitting unnecessary suffering of animals. Police discovered many of the animals under weight and suffering from lack of proper food.
Ross said the Hurley's were feeding the horses "bad hay" Though the person close to the ranch disputed that it was bad but of lower quality than what was delivered Friday stating that almost all Algoma Farmers use a similar quality of hay.
The Circle H Ranch advertises for horse and pony rides at the farm. They also provided winter sleigh rides featuring many of their work horses for the Bon Soo Winter Carnival.
Thet once provided a boarding service for those with their own horses but has since stopped that part of the business LOCAL2news was told.
It was previously reported that 30 horses were left at the farm after the action taken Friday however, LOCAL2news learned Saturday the number is higher. "There's 41 horses still on the property - I hope Rebecca is able to get the help she needs in order for some of the animals to get the help they need"
LOCAL2news reported on the Circle H Ranch two years ago when a local teenager and former volunteer was accused of stealing her two year old horse "Oliver" from the farm. The horse was given to her from the Hurley's for her dedication to the farm. When the teen started noticing things deteriorating as far as the upkeep of the animals and the lack of food, she started to ask questions. She was later banned from the farm along with her Mother. The Hurley subsequently decided not to give her the horse when they claim the teen was riding the horse when much too young and it led to health problems for the horse.
The teen was forced to return the ailing horse by authorities and has not seen the horse since then.
The farm was issued an order stemming from that story to have Oliver vet checked. Ross confirmed to LOCAL2news that Oliver is one of the remaining horses on the farm.
The Mother of the teen who claims the horse is hers wants Oliver off that farm.
Other animals on the farm include a pig, a goat and several barn cats that have yet to be rescued. It was also previously reported that one of the dogs was put down, however Ross said that was not the case.
"I think in the confusion of everything, and upon first seeing the dog - it was believed the dog would have to be put down when checked by the vet, however it was determined that he could be saved" Ross said.
The dog , one of six was the oldest dog on the farm and was brought to Circle H when the dog's owner died from cancer years ago. Since then, according to witnesses, the dog was left outside with no shelter behind the barn and was found laying in it's own feces and was never given any attention. Hurley allegedly hating the dog because it would bark "all day long" LOCAL2 was told the story is entirely false- "the dog always had shelter of some sort- be it the barn a house or an old converted barrel. he was not left outside behind the barn in his own feces, he was in clean bedding." said the anonymous source
In the meantime, Ross said that they have now been granted permission on the property and will make frequent visits to the farm including today to drop off more (higher quality hay) for the animals. The Humane Society is making a plea to the public to hep out where they can including making donations to help cover the extra cost of caring for many of the animals and possibly more. Ross is also hoping that those who can foster and shelter horses to contact the Humane Society.
Hurley is scheduled for a court appearance to answer to the charges on October 15.
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Living Nightmare for Circle H Ranch Animals
Craig Huckerby for local2 sault ste. marie
August 25th, 2012 at 4:14pm | Last Updated at 5:26pm