The Orange County Sheriff’s office obtained a warrant on Oct. 19 to search Peaceable Farms Inc. in Somerset, Va., and there officials found deceased animals and many that were in poor condition. The investigation has since continued, and yesterday property owner Anne Goland was charged with 27 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty.
“What we saw was one of the most horrendous [sights] that I have seen in my 28 years of law enforcement,” said Orange County Sheriff Mark Amos in a statement.
Peaceable Farm Inc. is registered as a nonprofit rescue and was operated by Goland, who also bred warmbloods on the property. Since Oct. 19, law enforcement officers have removed 81 total horses from Goland’s property; six were discovered dead when the officers arrived.
During the first visit from law enforcement officers, Goland surrendered 71 of the horses and kept 35, but a later visit from veterinarians indicated 10 of those 35 were in need of care and were seized. Nine of the horses taken have since been euthanized.
“Had Mrs. Goland not voluntarily released many of them, we would have had no authority to take them from her,” said Amos. A previous release from the Orange County Sheriff’s office stated that Virginia’s law regarding animal cruelty, “In practice means that a veterinarian has to determine that an animal is almost dead. Anything less is not seizeable.”
Goland was arrested on Oct. 27 and then charged. Today judge David Barredo denied bond to her on the basis that she is a risk to animals and a flight risk.
“Mrs. Goland is still in possession of 18 horses, one bull and several cats and dogs,” said Amos. “This agency had a tremendous amount of help from equine rescue organizations, veterinarians and local volunteers. We could not have moved that many animals from the property as quickly as we did without their help. On Oct. 23, we were able to get permission from Mrs. Goland to come on her property to make periodic checks to see that she is properly feeding and watering the remaining animals. As for this investigation: This case is immensely large in scope.”
Officials also obtained warrants to search Goland’s two storage units on Oct. 23, seeking additional evidence for the case.
“All of this started as a rescue, and at some point Anne crossed the line from rescue into hoarding, but her hoarding transcended lots of lines. It wasn’t just the horses,” said Christine Hajek, the president and founder of Gentle Giants Draft Horse Rescue (Md.). Area rescues, including Hajek’s, have taken in many of the horses, mules and donkeys, and the Orange County Animal Shelter has accepted the cats and dogs removed from the property.
Hope’s Legacy Equine Rescue Inc. (Va.) took in 29 horses and one donkey from Peaceable Farms.
“It’s going to be a very long road to recovery and rehabilitation for them, but at this point, we’re just taking each horse day by day,” said Samantha Martynowski, a volunteer at the rescue and a friend of its founder, Maya Proulx. “There are a lot of foster families involved that have taken horses through the rescue and same thing—they are just going day by day as things come up. The horses are in extremely terrible condition, nutritionally and [with] skin infections and that sort of thing.”
Gentle Giants Draft Horse Rescue took in 23 horses, all of which were drafts, draft crosses or mules. Hajek stated that the rescue became involved over the summer when Goland contacted a shipper to move horses from her farm in Maryland to Virginia. The shipper reached out to Hajek with concerns that the horses may be involved in an ongoing investigation. ABC7 reports that Goland was cited at her Maryland farm for not providing adequate water to horses, and weekly checks were conducted by Montgomery County Animal Services.
But when Montgomery County officials failed to respond to the rescue’s queries, the horses were moved to Virginia in July. At that time, Hajek said Goland did surrender some of her horses to various rescue organizations.
“This week it ranged from critical horses, body score of 1, up to horses who were of healthy and normal body weight,” said Hajek. “It really just depended what part of the farm the horse was in and how dominant that horse was in the herd, and some horses of different breeds fared better. The draft horses that we removed in August were far more critical than the horses that we removed on Tuesday.”
Two of the horses that the Gentle Giants Draft Rescue took in over the summer were euthanized immediately due to advanced cases of untreated canker that left their hooves too full of maggots to save. Animal control deputies determined that the rest of the animals on the property were not seizable at that time.
“All the animal welfare groups were all talking, and we thought well, you know, maybe they’re not responding because they’re just thinking, ‘Oh, those are those crazy horse welfare groups, and they get a little intense, and they’re probably exaggerating and it’s just fine,’ ” said Hajek. “We started finding people in the community and saying, ‘Would you be willing to drive down this road, look at the horses at this address? You can see them from the road. Please call animal control and make a report.’
“It’s been a very frustrating case to be involved with,” continued Hajek. “The equine welfare groups are here to support our animal control agencies, and we like to do that so that they can go in there and be empowered to do their job, but this was really a situation where everyone was trying to help them do their job, and it was like they just would not do it.”
Local rescues and farms such as Paradise Farm (Md.) offered space to house horses should they be seized from Peaceable Farm during the summer. Last week, police were called to the farm where the deceased horses were discovered. Those officers obtained the search warrant, contacted animal control and liquidation of the farm’s animals began.