Condition of Mounted Patrol Blamed on Feeding Mix Up

By Jason Schreiber

Hampton Union, Friday, September 14, 2007

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

HAMPTON — An equine specialist determined the horses in the police department’s Mounted Patrol Unit were not abused and that their rapid weight loss was the result of confusion over their feeding schedule.

“We have no evidence there was any intention of wrongdoing,” Police Chief Jamie Sullivan told selectmen Monday night.

The four horses, which had been cared for at a family-owned farm at the Tidewater Campground on Route 1 in Hampton, were found to be underweight in May when a veterinarian examined them as police prepared the unit for the summer season.

The horses began losing weight when the caretaker at Tidewater, farm owner Wally Shaw, went to Florida and left them in the care of others who misunderstood the feeding schedule, Sullivan said. The horses were not fed as much food as they were supposed to be given, Sullivan said, resulting in the weight loss.

Because the officers in the Mounted Patrol Unit aren’t involved in the daily care of the horses, Sullivan said the weight loss wasn’t discovered until the veterinarian’s examination.

“We had a misunderstanding with regard to the feed. All signs are indicating that was the issue,” he said.

A final report by an equine specialist at TNT Equine found there were no signs of abuse. Calling the allegations of abuse a “sad chapter,” Sullivan said his department should have noticed the horses’ weight loss.

“They’re our horses. They’re our responsibility,” he said.

The horses were removed from Tidewater and have received medical treatment at the Epping farm of retired Deputy Chief Dennis Pelletier, who helped create the Mounted Patrol Unit. Their conditions have improved significantly, Sullivan said.

“They look fantastic,” he said. “They’ve gotten the best health care you can think of in the last three to four months.”

The horses are used full-time during the summer months. However, Sullivan said he now wants officers to ride the horses at least once a month and check on them more regularly during the offseason to keep better tabs on their condition.

While Sullivan praised Shaw for his care over the years, he said the department is currently negotiating with a new facility to care for the horses. Sullivan declined to identify the facility until a deal is reached.

Meanwhile, the equine specialist did recommend two of the horses, Blaze and Buddy, be retired because of their ages. Buddy also suffers from a serious breathing disorder, Sullivan said. The two horses won’t be replaced immediately owing to funding. A decision on replacing the horses will be made at some point in the future, Sullivan said.

Selectmen voted Monday night to allow the two horses to be adopted by private owners. The two remaining horses, Patriot and Aarow, will remain on the mounted patrol and are expected to be transferred to the new facility by month’s end.