One of the largest cases of animal cruelty seen in the Fresno area in recent years resulted this week in the SPCA taking 18 abused horses and euthanizing another, all found on a ranch in north Clovis.
A 59-year-old Fresno man was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of felony animal abuse after he showed up at the ranch while authorities were investigating the case. All of his horses were found in various stages of malnourishment, and one had to be put down at the ranch because it was in such poor condition.
The horses' owner, Dana Thomas Kahler, was booked into the Fresno County Jail and released on bond early Wednesday morning.
Kahler, who has worked in Fresno as a life insurance agent, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. His horses were taken from the property he leases on Shepherd Avenue in Clovis just west of Temperance Avenue.
An animal control official said it was one of the largest cases her organization has seen in recent years.
"We have had cases of multiple horses that have been neglected, but not this many," said Beth Caffrey, humane education administrator for the Central California Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the SPCA had taken most of the horses off the property. Caffrey said she wasn't sure when the last of them would be removed.
"These horses were all in varying stages of poor health, but some much worse than others," Caffrey said. "Some were in deplorable conditions."
Fresno County Sheriff's deputy Chris Curtice said that when deputies responded to the property on East Shepherd Avenue Tuesday afternoon, one of the horses, a 2-year-old gelding, was lying in the middle of a stable in distress and unable to get back on his feet.
The horse was euthanized by the SPCA veterinarian, Curtice said. At least eight other horses were in a severe state of malnutrition.
Although Kahler was not there when deputies arrived, he showed up later and was arrested.
A neighbor, who asked not to be identified because he feared retaliation, said some of the horses were so thin their ribs were visible. The neighbor and others had recently started to feed the neglected horses.
The simple ranch includes a stable and pasture and sits on the north side of Shepherd across from an upscale neighborhood. Another neighborhood of big homes is just to the west.
Caffrey said the SPCA is working with private stables to help board the horses. For the short term, the SPCA will care for the horses. If the owner surrenders them, the horses could be put up for adoption or sent to an animal sanctuary.
But, Caffrey said, Kahler also could try to get them back. "We will have to wait and see what happens with this case," she said.
Caffrey said that the agency is looking for donations of feed or money to help pay for the horses' care. Anyone willing to donate can visit the SPCA's website at www.ccspca.com, or call the society at (559) 233-7722.