HAVASUPAI FALLS, Ariz. (KSAZ)
It's one of the most beautiful places in the world, Havasupai Falls, at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. But animal rights activists say there is a dark underbelly operating there. They claim many pack horses used to take tourists down to the canyon are abused. Last month the FBI and BIA took action and seized four horses from tribal land.
It's an unprecedented case for Arizona as agents seized the animals and charged the owner with animal neglect. Now four of the horses are recovering in Flagstaff.
Brownies body is proof of years of neglect. He has open sores and is 500 pounds underweight. He was once expected to haul tourists down the Grand Canyon to Havasupai Falls.
"These horses are worked until they literally drop dead," said activist Susan Ash.
Ash is with Stop Animal Violence, a group that advocates for the horses. After mounting public pressure the feds took action, serving a search warrant on tribal land and arresting the owner Leland Joe.
"My understanding is that it's the very first time in U.S. history that this has been done, so my organization is very proud to be part of that," said Ash.
After being rescued the horses were brought to the Coconino County Humane Society where they have been recovering for the past five weeks. So far it's cost the agency $3,000 to nurse them back to health.
"We have months to go, this is not a quick thing where they get healed, and they are out the door again. It's going to be months before they are adoption ready," said Michelle Ryan.
Although there are some good operators, Ash believes dozens of horses remain abused.
"My message to the bad operators, they need to stop, or we are all going to make them stop," said Ash.
For at lease these four horses, they have a new shot at life.
The owner Leland Joe pleaded guilty to the charges of animal neglect. The Havasupai Indian Tribe was asked for comment but did not respond.
If you'd like to donate to care for the horses visit: https://www.gofundme.com/coconino-humane