Rescued: December 11, 2015
At first, Oscar's rescue case seemed very positive. Torrevieja’s new animal welfare councillor had acted swiftly on reports of a skeletal horse near the San Luis salt lakes, and we felt like all our hard work over the years lobbying for authorities to act on this hellhole of a place were finally being heard.
We’d received complaints about this place ever since we started our rescue centre in 2008, with many people contacting us about the horses, donkeys and even dogs that are kept there behind the Mercadona in awful conditions.
In March 2014, we actually tried to save a starved and extremely dehydrated horse on the same property, but despite trying everything possible with specialist veterinarian care, the horse died. Sue later appeared before court as a witness for the prosecution against the man who allegedly left his horse to starve to death.
Now, this animal welfare councillor was vowing to act swiftly to save not only Oscar, but the other animals on the site. Oscar had been tethered to a piece of rope beside the salt lakes, which is public land and therefore made his seizure much easier.
Rod went out on December 11 to collect Oscar, who was about 17 years old and so thin he literally looked like a walking skeleton. Incredibly, he still had shoes on, meaning he was still being ridden even in that terrible condition. Oscar's tendons and fetlock joints had collapsed due to continual pounding on hard roads. Our equine veterinarian Dorothea said it was the worst case of overwork abuse she had ever seen.
We brought Oscar home to our rescue centre – and then the trouble began.
In February 2016, Oscar's former owners came to our centre with a Ford transit van, saying they had come to collect the horse. Rod promptly called the Rojales council, which sent several police officers to the scene.
It didn't end there.
Oscar's former owners then worked to legitimise their claim for the horse, and we were shocked to learn in early March 2016 that they had been successful, with police advising the Torrevieja Council that we must return Oscar. We of course opted to fight the order.
Police then granted Oscar’s former owners permission to visit our rescue centre – which is also our home – and we became increasingly concerned about the safety of our animals.
One afternoon, Sue was out grooming horses and couple of unsavoury-looking characters pulled up and started shouting. Guys started turning up, asking if we had horses for sale as an excuse to come inside and see our set up. We heard vans driving slowly past late at night. We felt like we were under siege.
So we launched a major new fundraising campaign to build a secure boundary fence around our fields, replacing our old, crumbling and insecure fence.
And you, our supporters, rallied to help us. Within just three months, we had raised €13,000 for the new fence. A few months later, after securing the necessary council permissions, we began building the secure boundary wall we so desperately needed.
Oscar’s former owners eventually verbally agreed to cease their pursuit to reclaim him. While this initially sounded like a great win, the fact that they refused to sign any legal documents to formalise our ownership of Oscar left us skeptical. Legally, nothing changed, which meant Oscar's previous owners could pursue a claim on him again in the future.
Still, since then, we have been cautiously celebrating Oscar’s safety. He is now a picture of health and you can see what a showy horse he must have been, which is probably why his former owners worked him to bits. Isn’t it amazing what a few months of proper food and care can do for a skeletal and broken down horse?
As a non-profit foundation staffed almost entirely by volunteers, we rely on your donations to continue our work to save horses like Oscar, and to cover their ongoing feeding and care costs. Find out how you can help here.