Over seven months in 2010, law enforcement in Fulton County, Arkansas, received multiple reports that horses were being starved and neglected on the farm of horse trader Rodney Kankey, who bought horses at auction and re-sold them to the public and to slaughter. The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office called on the ASPCA and the Humane Society of the United States to help investigate the case and rescue the suffering equines.
On December 9, the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response team and other responders arrived at Kankey’s farm with law enforcement to carry out a search warrant. The team members found more than 100 horses in deplorable condition and showing obvious signs of neglect—most emaciated and many with untreated wounds, old fractures and infections.
The team immediately set to work caring for the horses on-site—getting the animals the veterinary care, food and attention they badly needed. The ASPCA also collected evidence for future criminal charges. “It’s sad to see so many horses suffering from blatant neglect without food, water and adequate medical care,” Kyle Held, ASPCA Midwest Director of Field Investigations and Response, said at the time. “We are doing everything we can to quickly address the critical cases.”
After just a few days, the FIR team was able to transport the horses to a temporary stable in Mountain Home, Arkansas, where the ASPCA could nurse the equines back to health.
The ASPCA remained in Arkansas caring for the horses into 2011, mucking and stripping stalls, maintaining a strict feeding and watering schedule, and administering medications (and lots of carrots). Many team members missed holidays with their families to stay and care for the horses, and the group even endured severe Arkansas weather to ring in the new year by the animals' side. “There is no doubt in any of our minds that this is where we belong—we owe these animals a second chance,” Kathryn Destreza, ASPCA Southeast Director of Field Investigations and Response, said at the time.
At the Mountain Home stable, the horses began to show real improvement, gaining weight and continuously improving in health. “The horses are not yet available for adoption,” says Kyle Held, ASPCA Midwest Director of Field Investigations and Response, “but we’re hoping once they become available, the community will offer these beautiful animals permanent homes.”
As 2010 drew to a close, the horses’ owner, Kankey, was charged with 118 counts of animal cruelty—five of them felonies. Each felony carries a penalty of up to six years in prison. On December 30, an arrest warrant was issued for Kankey. Coincidentally, on the same day, a deputy police sergeant from nearby Boone County responded to a call of a break-in and theft in progress and arrested Kankey at the scene. Kankey was held in Boone County without bail and, in January 2011, ultimately transferred to Fulton County’s jail to await criminal proceedings.
"We appreciate the diligence of the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office in pursuing this case and bringing appropriate charges against the owner of these horses,” Held said. “Animal cruelty should not be tolerated in any community, and we’re pleased that Kankey was held accountable for blatantly neglecting his animals.”