Yesterday in King County Superior Court, a jury returned a guilty verdict on two counts of felony animal cruelty against the woman who starved and neglected Bud and Brandy. Here is their story.
The call came late on a Sunday afternoon in February…two elderly horses, starved…can SAFE help? Dr Hannah was on site with officers from King County Animal Control, and the horses were being surrendered by their owner. A quick decision was made — the two horses would go directly to NWESC for treatment, which would give SAFE some time to find a foster home to take them in. We hitched up a trailer and set off to meet Bud and Brandy.
The two horses were a mess…their long, scraggly starvation coats covered the worst of the damage, but underneath all that hair they were thin and bony. Brandy’s too-big blanket was removed to reveal a 4 cm long infected wound where it had rubbed against her withers, a wound that had gone untreated because her owner admitted she hadn’t removed the blanket in months. More evidence of severe neglect became evident upon looking into the horses’ mouths — their teeth, which had not been properly cared for, were not only incapable of chewing hay, but the long sharp points formed by uneven wear were carving sores and ulcers into the sides of their mouths. And an infected, loose tooth in Brandy’s mouth was causing her even more pain and discomfort. These two elderly horses — Bud was 32 and Brandy 37 — were living out their twilight years in pain and suffering.
They were too thin to sedate for normal dental work so Dr Hannah removed Brandy’s infected tooth as quickly as possible, and prescribed an all mash diet in order to get their weight back up. Slowly at first so as not to risk colic, their daily feed was increased over time until they were each receiving a giant bowl of alfalfa and grass pellets mixed with senior feed, beet pulp, and vegetable oil — soaked and watered down into a yummy, green porridge — twice a day. Slowly their weight started to increase, and their shaggy, starvation coats began to shed. It took months before they looked normal again, and poor Bud shed himself bald in places, but by late summer, the transformation was complete, and the two horses regained their health, their weight, and their spirits. Once they were stable enough to be sedated, they were both given dental care, but the damage done by their neglect was irreversible ..they would never be able to chew hay properly, so they would continue to be fed mush for the rest of their lives.
Having lived together for more than a decade, Bud and Brandy were very close…so close that any attempt to introduce other horses into their group met with Bud’s disapproval — he did not want anyone messing with his girlfriend! The two spent two months in Dr Hannah’s care and then were moved to a foster home together where they shared a large, grassy pasture — that they couldn’t eat but seemed to enjoy gumming on — and a cute barn where they could get out of the sun and enjoy their giant bowls of gooey green porridge. Later that year, they were moved together to a second foster home, where they became part of the KCJ Stables family. They spent their days under the trees in their sunny paddock, and nights sharing a shelter built for two. They were much loved by everyone at the farm, but probably no one loved them more than their Auntie Jet, who watched over them whenever she visited KCJ to ride and groom her beloved rescue horse Coconut.
In December 2011, Brandy had a severe and sudden onset colic. Surgery was not an option for this elderly mare, so she was quickly and humanely euthanized to stop her suffering. Bud was at her side when she passed, and seeing him standing over her was heartbreaking. But he seemed to make peace with her passing as he and the other nearby horses said their goodbyes. After she was gone, we worried about how Bud would adjust, but the brave and plucky old man made friends with his young neighbor Basil, and the two of them started a new friendship over their paddock fences, and Bud seemed quite content. Over the next six months, he continued to eat his mush and doze in the sun, and some days he’d even set off at a canter across his pasture, kicking up his heel a tiny bit just because he could. He got older, and creakier, and in June 2012 when his health truly started to fail, we made the decision to let him go. Bud passed away peacefully, surrounded by friends who truly loved him. We miss them both, but as winter sets in, it’s good to know that Bud & Brandy are together again in the great beyond, where it’s always warm and there’s always enough food to eat, and proper teeth to eat it with. And no more green mush, ever.
We are so grateful to the officers of Regional Animal Services of King County who stepped in and removed Bud & Brandy from their former home, and we commend the hard work and dedication shown by the King County Prosecutors who fought for and won this guilty verdict against the woman who starved these graceful old horses. It means a great deal to us to know that in the eyes of the law these two horses were not forgotten. They certainly won’t be forgotten in our hearts.
Rest in peace, Bud and Brandy. Justice has been served.
Photos of Bud and Brandy’s remarkable journey: