Young horse’s cruel death in Utah leads to calls for tougher laws

UPDATE — Video of Elsa’s Rescue; Links to Petitions


LADD EGAN reports:

KUTV (Jan. 22, 2014) — An animal cruelty case in Southern Utah involving a young horse dying after being found frozen to the ground has garnered nationwide attention and calls for Utah to enhance its laws to protect horses.

“We want the law to change,” said Ginger Grimes, founder of the Dust Devil Ranch Sanctuary for Horses in Iron County. “We’re not going to let it rest.”

Animal control officers rescued the emaciated filly and her mother from the backyard of a home in Enoch City on Jan. 2 and took them to the nearby horse sanctuary.

“This is absolutely one of the worst cases in my career,” said animal control officer Chris Johnson.

The sanctuary named the 21-month-old filly “Elsa” and the 10-year-old mare “Anna.” Volunteers worked around the clock to nurse them back to health. But it soon became clear that Elsa would not make it. She died on Jan. 18.

“We did everything we could possibly do,” Grimes said, adding that Elsa died surrounded by her caregivers. “It was silent and she took her last breath.”

Enoch police charged the owner of the horse with animal cruelty, a class “B” misdemeanor. As news of Elsa’s death spread on social media, many have called for tougher felony charges saying the punishment doesn’t fit the crime.

“He didn’t feed this horse; it’s blatant,” Grimes said. “It’s not like he had to go 25 miles away to feed it.”

Enoch’s police chief says his department understands demands for stiffer charges and says the case has been upsetting for his department as well.

“We want to see justice served just as much as anybody else,” Chief Jackson Ames said. “But we can’t go above and beyond what the law allows either.”

Ames said Utah’s laws on animal cruelty do not classify horses as companion animals, making it so that enhanced charges and penalties are not available in this case.

“No animal should have to go through this experience and suffer like it did,” Chief Ames said. “If people want to champion this cause and try and get the law changed, I encourage that.”

Read more, view video report >>

The Daily Mail reports that a ranch dog named Dingo never left the filly’s side. The dog was still present when Elsa died at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. The filly’s mother, named Anna, is recovering well, and was brought in to spend one last moment with Elsa.

Sanctuary founder Ginger Grimes said a “body imprint where you can see every hair strand” remains where Elsa lay for “quite some time”.

The sanctuary is working with animal advocacy groups and the Iron County Sheriff’s Office to spread word to horse owners that if they are struggling to afford caring for their horses, help is available.


Please take the following action:


— Utah Residents

— Non-Utah Residents


Utah Residents

— If you are a Utah resident, please contact your State Representative and Senator.

:: Find Your State Representative —
:: Find Your State Senator —

— Write also to Sen. Wayne Niederhauser, President of the Utah State Senate.
:: Email Him

Ask them to toughen the law, making animal abuse like this a felony, and determine and enact an appropriate level of punishment.


— No matter where you reside, please contact the Office of the Utah State Attorney General’s Office and the Governor of Utah.

    Office of the Attorney General,
    Sean D. Reyes
    Utah State Capitol Complex
    350 North State Street Suite 230
    Salt Lake City, UT 84114-2320

    Governor Gary R. Herbert
    Utah State Capitol Complex
    350 North State Street, Suite 200
    PO Box 142220
    Salt Lake City, Utah 84114-2220

Express your feelings about the abuse and death of Elsa, the Utah filly starved and left to die outside, found frozen to the ground.

1. Ask the Attorney General to work with State legislators to strengthen equine protection laws so that the punishment fits the crime and acts as a deterrent.

2. Ask the Attorney General to establish an animal cruelty database. This is very important information for law enforcement and not just for animals. People who commit acts of violence and murder often have a history of animal abuse.

3. Repeat to the Governor of Utah.


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Follow Anna’s progress on Facebook >>


17 thoughts on “Young horse’s cruel death in Utah leads to calls for tougher laws”

  1. I am holding my tears back as I type. It hurts my heart to see anyone suffer. To believe that a foal could undergo such conditions is beyond me. I can’t even begin to grasp the fact that there are people who own these animals yet simply turn a blind eye to their suffering. That is why I’m willing to wait 15 or so years before I own a horse. As much as I wanted one since my childhood up to now in my young adulthood, I rather wait to fill that void (if I ever do) than to be burdened with the guilt of something happening to my horse because I failed to provide for him/her physically and emotionally. If I do wind up having one to call my own, that horse will have the best life that I can give him/her.


  2. Leaving addresses and asking people to write is not helpful. Providing an email address for these organizations IS helpful.


    1. Eleanor: I can appreciate what you are saying, as email really is easier and people are more likely to email than mail these days. However, I work in an industry in which letters to Legislators play a big part and I can attest to the fact that most Legislators like actual letters. Stacks of paper letters represent a call to action. Emails are often dismissed.


  3. There has been starved dogs found like this to. I doesn’t seem to make any difference what it is human or animal with people starving their kids to starved dogs, cats or horses. You find it everywhere. Some are hoarders and some are just mean and cruel because they can be. This sounds like what happened about this small horse, the owner was mean and cruel because he didn’t feel he owed it to the two horses he was responsible for to feed them. I agree that most if not all of the state and county laws governing animal cruelty need to be overhauled to cover cruelty like this. Nothing but a felony in the first degree fits what happened here.


  4. Maybe there needs to be a return to good old fashioned public shaming. If even ten percent of horse lovers and people who care anything about animals would publicly loudly and repeatedly shame the person who did this, and not only on social media but public confrontation – and we know there are plenty of people who know the perps and could get “in their faces” about this – we might see some change. Laws take far too long to get in place and the special interest agricultural lobbies prevent significant changes in the animal cruelty laws because they think it might create problems for factory farms (as it should). Once the laws are in place THEN you have to somehow convince the authorities to actually carry out the laws – to go after those who neglect and abuse animals, prosecute, obtain convictions, and levy appropriate fines and sentences. There are sadly so few law enforcement types, prosecutors and even judges who are willing to take this on, and too often animal cruelty charges are “plea bargained” down to little more than a wrist slap to the perps. In the meantime I vote for systematic, very loud, very public, SHAMING! If people thought they were going to be very publicly outed for their cruelty and neglect, perhaps some would start thinking twice before carrying out their horrific crimes against other living creatures. And frankly the first thing in my mind was – has anyone checked on these people’s children? If they would do this to a horse – imagine how they treat their children!


  5. Check out The Windchill Legacy on Facebook. Windchill too was a young, starved Appaloosa horse found frozen to the ground. He too was rescued and brought to a sanctuary where he fought hard to survive. He too was overwhelmed by his ordeal and died. His caretakers then banded together and began to fight for tougher laws overseeing animal care and tougher penalties for those who allowed such long-term neglect. Their fight is ongoing but now thousands more people are behind them. The Windchill Legacy furnished the sling to help rehab Betsey Rose–another downed, starving horse–at Beauty’s Haven Horse Rescue.


  6. Dear Heavenly Father,

    Thank you for hearing our prayer.

    We affirm that our horses are created and maintained by divine Love.

    As you have given us dominion over our thoughts, we pray that our thoughts are in line with your thoughts, that our horses are cherished ideas, and individual expressions of your Creation, living purely, freely, cared for, watched over, protected, provided for, abundant in Spirit, and in perfect Peace and Harmony.

    We praise you and thank you, our Good and Loving Father, and have faith that you are eternal and ever present, governing all according to your divine Principle of Truth, Life and Love. Thank You Vivian for this MAGNIFICENT PRAYER……………………….. Dear Elsa you will be remembered !!!! Rest in Peace Beautiful little Foal…….Elsa


  7. Anytime a Magnificent Horse or foal dies from cruelty this kind or any other kind , in someones care the Caretaker is responsible !!!!! It has always been the time to Stop this with Better Laws !!!!! We can make all the Laws we want to , but what is needed is to ENFORCE Them !!!!!!


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