From Wayne County, NY comes word of an animal cruelty seizure involving, among others, 16 horses in various debased conditions. Wayne County Investigator Tom Littlefield (WHAM): “Faced with that [bad hay and moldy corn] the horses have nothing left to eat but trees, the bark off of trees and fence posts and things like that. They’re really in bad shape, the lucky ones are just the emaciated ones they have others with serious, serious injuries.” The alleged abuser, Cindy Denninger of Sodus, is a licensed Thoroughbred owner who has stabled horses at Finger Lakes Racetrack; reportedly, most of the victims were Finger Lakes castoffs.
First, in the abstract: We cannot protect horses from being tortured to death (yes, there were two dead horses found on Denninger’s property) when anyone can acquire horses, and when there exists no serious deterrent to torturing them. Anyone can acquire horses because horses are things to acquire, and there is no serious deterrent because serious deterrents are reserved for violations of others’ rights. Horses are not “others”; they have no rights. Vicious circle defined.
Worse, horses are chattel of the lowest order, manufactured, traded, used, and trashed purely on a human’s whim. There are no agencies regulating their titles and no safety nets monitoring their care. And if found abused, the victims of cruelty as defined by the law, there are no prosecutorial crusades initiated on their behalf and no sentencing messages from the bench. There is no justice, not even a pretense to justice, because there is no will within society – not at the legislative level, not at the enforcement level, not at the judicial level, and most importantly, not at the people level – to (seriously) punish property owners for committing wrongs against their property.
(One of Denninger’s neighbors writes (WHAM): “I am her neighbor and YES everyone complained every year for years to do something for these poor animals… They came and did NOTHING!!!” And a former neighbor: “I used to live right around the corner 10 years ago. The cops were called quite often way back then about the condition of the animals she had. It was horrible then.”)
On the present case, Paul Ubbink of the Ubbink racing-family vehemently defends both his track (FL) and his industry. While he concedes that there are “bad apple” trainers/owners delivering their “retired” into wicked hands, it is grossly unfair to paint all with the same brush. From the WHAM story: “It’s uninformed filth that spills from people’s mouths that makes the racing industry look bad. Just like every business in the world there are of course going to be bad people, not everyone in the racing industry is bad.” (For proof, he says, come visit Team Ubbink’s happy stock.) For its part, Finger Lakes is “horrified” and promises cooperation.
But here’s the problem: Ms. Denninger’s vile ways couldn’t have been a secret around the track. Ubbink: “Trust me, she is perfectly fine and this has been going on for a long time.” But only now, with a red-hot spotlight, is there talk of action: Robert Ubbink: “And as far as the racetrack having responsibility in this—they don’t. But you better believe they will never let her on the grounds again. Or ever allow her to ship one through the stable gate.” What I hear is that Finger Lakes could have intervened a long time ago, but did not. And the “good horsemen” could have applied some pressure toward that end, but did not. In my book, that makes them complicit. A “few bad apples”? Folks, the entire orchard is rotten.