Twenty-nine horses were seized from a riding stable on Campbell Boulevard in Amherst today by the SPCA, which says the animals weren't being properly fed, and were kept in crowded and unhealthy conditions.
The seizure was prompted by an incident earlier this week, officials said, when two horses at Highpoint Ranch, 1899 Campbell Blvd., left the property, ran into the road, and were hit by cars. The animals had to be destroyed, officials said.
"The conditions were horrendous," said Gina Browning, a spokesperson for the Erie County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
The horses will be kept at the SPCA's Town of Tonawanda facility at least until cruelty charges lodged against the ranch owner, Lynn Van Dusen, are settled, Browning said.
Van Dusen today denied the charges and said she will fight to get her horses back.
About a dozen of the horses are kept as boarders at the stable; the rest are owned by her and are used for a riding stable, Van Dusen said.
The horses are well-fed and cared for, she said. "I'll show you the hay and grain bills."
Van Dusen added that half of the barn is in the process of being torn down and rebuilt, which could give the impression that the building is in disrepair.
She also said that the two horses hit by cars earlier this week were in the pasture and apparently were startled by deer and ran after them.
"I think the new pasture was in line with the deer run," Van Dusen said. "I moved the horses."
Van Dusen, 48, said she has operated the horse stable for the past five years, and has owned horses virtually her entire life.
Browning said the SPCA has been receiving complaints periodically for the past nine months about Van Dusen's horses. But in the past, Van Dusen would make improvements after the SPCA has visited the property.
After the two horses were hit this week, police contacted the SPCA about the conditions at the barn.
The SPCA found the conditions had not improved since the last warnings were issued and therefore seized the horses and cited Van Dusen, Browning said.
"We've gone back and forth at this house a number of times, she said. "We go out, give her a warning, and she usually obeys the warnings. This time she didn't."