Settlement Victory After Suing to Protect Starving Horses From ‘Rescue’ Organization
United Pegasus Foundation v. California Equine Retirement Foundation
The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit seeking to remove neglected horses from the California Equine Retirement Foundation (CERF) and prevent its chief operating officer from ever operating or being involved with any horse sanctuary in the future.
$50K awarded to plaintiff; additional terms
***Settlement includes $50K awarded to plaintiff who nursed horses back to health as well as comprehensive welfare audits and automatic seizure provisions.***
In December 2019, the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit seeking to remove starving horses from the California Equine Retirement Foundation (CERF) and prevent its chief operating officer from ever operating or being involved with any horse sanctuary in the future. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of United Pegasus Foundation (UPF), a California-based nonprofit organization, and Caru SPCA.
For more than 30 years, CERF has operated with the stated mission of assisting in the rehabilitation of horses used in racing and adopting them to loving homes. But what witness accounts show is that instead, these horses are being neglected — underfed to the point of starvation, with untreated veterinary conditions that cause suffering and death — all while the organization has let its nonprofit status lapse, avoiding financial and other oversight.
A total of 44 horses were removed from CERF’s property between May 25 and June 15, 2019. However, CERF refused to allow the remaining horses — approximately 20 of them — to be removed, putting their lives in danger.
The lawsuit holds CERF accountable for the neglect of the horses and other violations of California law.
Who is being sued, why, and under what law?
The California Equine Retirement Foundation (CERF) and its president under California public nuisance and other laws, for violating California’s animal cruelty law.
Why this case is important:
Horse racing is a cruel industry in which animals are exploited, harmed, and even killed for profit. There are no laws governing what may happen with the horses who survive their time on the track. They may be sold for slaughter — or, as in this case, may be entrusted to “rescue” organizations that harm the animals they are entrusted to care for. This case shows why it is critical that animals be transferred to bona fide sanctuaries or rescue groups, and illustrates the need for horses and other animals to be granted greater legal protections.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund litigates, advocates, and educates to achieve progress in the law.