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Nine Rescued Horses Removed From Home

Posted on Jul 6, 2007 - 11:02 AM
Rutland Herald
Article published Jul 1, 2007

READSBORO A couple may be facing animal abuse charges after nine underfed horses they rescued from slaughter were removed from their home in June.

Some of the horses taken from Doug Nicklien and Judith Page of Readsboro were rescue animals and one of the youngest has since died.

Suzanne Caviola, shelter manager and humane officer for the Windham County Humane Society, said she and a Vermont State Police officer, the animal control officer for the town of Readsboro and a representative of the state Department of Agriculture, visited the Route 100 home of Nicklien and Page on June 4 where they first observed the condition of the animals.

The horses were all undernourished. Caviola said there was only two bales of "very, very, very moldy" hay and no water that she observed for the horses.

Caviola said Nicklien and Page told investigators that the horses did receive water from a creek but Caviola said she wasn't sure that would be a clean source.

The horses were also standing in deep mud and manure, according to Caviola.

The horses' hooves had apparently gone uncared for based on the condition in which they were found. Some of the hooves were split all the way to the top.

Caviola said there was no indication the horses had been treated by veterinarians.

"There certainly were multiple violations," Caviola said.

According to Caviola, at least some of the horses were "Premarin horses." Premarin is a drug made from the urine of pregnant mares that is used in estrogen replacement therapy and for the prevention of osteoporosis and heart disease. The Humane Society of the United States Web site says mares that that are no longer fertile and their foals are often slaughtered, sometimes to be used for human consumption overseas.

Investigators found no one at home June 4 so they returned on June 7 around 7 p.m. Caviola said that investigation that night went out until about 2 a.m.

Nicklien and Page voluntarily signed the horses over to the Windham County Humane Society. According to Caviola, there were four mares, two foals about three or four weeks old, two stallions and a yearling.

The horses are now being fed to bring up their weight and treated by veterinarians.

One of the foals has died, however, and Caviola said Nicklien and Page had not sought medical care for either of the newly born horses.

While Readsboro is in Bennington County, Caviola said her shelter had become involved at the invitation of the Bennington County Humane Society because Bennington County has no place to keep large animals.

The shelter will eventually be looking to place the horses but they will first have to be nursed back to health. Caviola said an individual had volunteered to pay for the care of the horses but contributions to defray those costs would be welcome.

Bennington County State's Attorney Erica Marthage said she was aware of the investigation but had not yet received the reports from police investigators that would allow her to decide whether criminal charges for animal abuse were warranted.

A recording reached at the telephone number for Douglas Nicklien on Friday said the phone had been temporarily disconnected

For information on contributing to the horses' care, call the Windham County Humane Society at 254-2232.

Contact Patrick McArdle at

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