Inyo Sheriff busts Chontas for animal neglect
According to a news release from the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office (ICOS), on Tuesday, March 11, ICOS deputies and investigators removed more than 150 burros, seven mules and nine horses from the Wild Burro Rescue and Preservation Project in Olancha. The owner-operator, Diane Chontas, was taken into custody and booked on felony animal cruelty charges.
Several residents claimed the abuse has been known for years, and that the county simply never did anything about it until now. Sadly, several people interviewed off the record also admitted that they knew about it, but did not report or follow-up on it.
Inyo County Animal Services personnel witnessed approximately 160 burros, mules, horses and other livestock suffering from varying degrees of long-term neglect. Several animals had hooves so overgrown that they curled under and continued to grow backwards toward the hind legs; many were unable to stand, and reaching food and water was difficult.
In a brief phone conversation with The Sheet, Chontas denied the allegations and said that she and others are putting together documents to use in trial. She promised that, as soon the fact gathering was done, she would be more willing to discuss the situation with The Sheet.
The Sheet also spoke with Mark Meyers of Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue, located in San Angelo, Texas. He said that he was contacted by Inyo County Animal Control Supervisor Julie Richardson to see if he could assist them in relocating the animals and making sure they were given proper veterinary and dental care.
He also says that he has received complaints over the years about conditions at the facility in Olancha but had no authority over it and could only recommend to those contacting him that they report it to local authorities.
Meyers was candid in his comments.
“It appears to be a hoarding situation” she said, noting that the Olancha facility was grossly underfunded for many years and that it clearly showed that the operational costs to feed, provide veterinary and dental care, and maintain the facility outstripped the available funds.
Meyers was appalled at the conditions that he found at the Olancha site: piles of manure and hay making it hard or impossible to open corral gates, hooves that had been allowed to grow to ridiculous lengths, and very poor dental care. Some animals were in such poor condition that six of them had to be euthanized. He was concerned that people might think that he made that decision, however that decision was made by the veterinarian working for Inyo County.
Photos of several animals shown on the Inyo County Sheriff’s Facebook page and on Meyers’ Donkey Rescue website show animals in poor condition with open sores and a host of other problems.
Meyers brought in five haulers from Arizona, Texas and Virginia to move the animals. It took twelve trips and $80,000 spent on behalf of Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue to move the animals to another refuge. One cow, two mini-donkeys and a dog were removed to local animal care.
Volunteers and staff were brought in from around the country. It will cost the organization even more as all the animals are being microchipped, tested for common equine diseases and given veterinary and dental care. Meyers promises the public that, whatever the cost, these animals will be taken care of whether they remain in his care or are returned depending on the legal outcome of the case.
For more information on how to donate or help the animals, call PVDR at (866) 366-5731 or visit the website at: https://donkeyrescue.org.
This is an ongoing story that The Sheet will continue to follow.