THEFT A CRIME OF OPPORTUNITY
Essay by Ashley Maragas
Presented at the 2003 Ohio
State Fair as a 4H Project by Ashley Maragas, who won a
fifth place ribbon for her efforts. Congratulations, Ashley!
HORSE THEFT ......... To
a horse owner it is a horrifying act: the stealing of a
family member, your best friend, your beloved pet. It conjures
up the feeling of total loss, of aching pain that haunts
you for life. According to Net Posse and Stolen Horse International
as many as 55,000 horses are stolen annually, and that number
only reflects only those that were reported. Horses are
stolen anywhere horse activities take place, be it a horse
show, a trail ride, your barn, or a leased boarding facility
for horses or even out at pasture-anywhere. If a horse thief
sees horses and the opportunity to take them he will. Why
does someone take a horse that does not belong to them?
The answer may vary from debt collection, revenge, a planned
or random theft, but the main motives are profit and the
thief's opportunity to steal!
You may ask is it legal to
take a horse? No, it is not legal to take anyone's property,
e it by an animal rescue or by theft. The law sees our horses
as personal property; even animal rescues must follow legal
protocol if they want to rescue an alleged abused or neglected
animal. This legal process that must be followed is called
DUE PROCESS; there are legal steps that the animal rescues
and the sheriff department with the local courts must follow
to take anyone's property. If due process is not followed,
the animal rescue along with other any entity will face
law suits and even jail time.
Horse theft is categorized
by the law on the horse's monetary value. A stolen horse
that is worth $28,000 will be categorized GRAND THEFT with
a higher criminal penalty than a horse that is stolen and
worth $500, which is PETTY THEFT. Your love for this horse
has no influence here in the legal arena only property value.
Some people in the horse communities are trying to change
the legal classification of horses from live stock to pets;
this they feel will increase the protection of our horses
under the law.
When you are facing horse
theft you must remember that the 1st 24-48 hours are critical
in getting your horse back quickly, and there are some things
a horse owner can do to prevent the theft of their horses.
This info will help you be prepared and save you precious
time if someone steals your horse; it could mean the difference
between getting your horse back quickly versus spending
months, even years looking for your horse and possibly never
finding him. Keep a note book of the following information
close at hand. In the front of the note book keep up dated
records of all contact information with phone numbers and
addresses for state & local veterinarians, farriers,
trainers, local & state auction houses, slaughter facilities,
state livestock investigator, local & state riding clubs,
state & local law enforcement, animal control, state
horse council, local 4-h and local fire and rescue organizations.
By having this info, you will save hours when you need to
notify people about your stolen horse. Next, have copies
of registration papers for each horse along with medical
histories for each horse. Know your horse; this means know
all your horse's identifiable marks. Remember a picture
speaks a thousand words so have pictures of each horse from
front, back and both sides. take the pictures in both summer
and winter. Take pictures of any identifiable marks your
horse has, make a body chart of your horse note all markings
- including scars and injuries, brands, size, shape, location.
Is your horse tattooed? Know numbers, size, shape, and location.
Note any hoof corrections or problems and on which hoof.
Is your horse micro chipped? Include any weird habits or
tricks your horse does, know location of hair swirls and
take pictures of them, know your horse's blood type
and have a copy of his DNA.
Check on your horse regularly;
this will remind you that you need to check on your horse
in the barn and while at pasture - check on your horse at
odd times - do not be predictable; that is what a horse
thief is watching for when he is watching you - he is waiting
to see when he can make his move to steal your horse. Be
aware of any changes; those changes may be a thief feeding
your horse to gain its trust so he can steal it. Maintain
your property; make it hard for the horse thief to steal.
Ask yourself, can your horse be seen from the road? Consider
landscaping to block the view; create a hedge row. Keep
fences and gates in good repair consider fencing that is
harder to penetrate like wood or field fence rather than
electrical tape or single wire. Post warning signs and no
trespassing signs, use padlocks and heavy chain on gates,
have gate pins hinges set so gate can't be removed.
Have security system with alarms put in. Also install spot
lights with motion sensors also keep a barking dog on the
property. Install a security system and check it regularly.
Make sure the security system is working and not tampered
with. Make sure tapes are working and recording. Start a
farm neighborhood watch.
Remove all your horses'
halters while they are in their stalls and while at pasture;
keep the halters and other tack stored away from the horses.
It takes time to find the halters and even more time to
put it on the horse, and a horse thief does not have time.
Don't leave your horse trailer parked near your horses.
Keep the hitch locked so that your trailer cannot be used
by the horse thief to steal your horses. Report all suspicious
vehicles around the neighborhood to the proper authorities.
Get license plate numbers, take pictures of the driver.
Law enforcement sees a picture as solid evidence when developing
a case against the thief.
The things we went over today
are as follows:
1) keep up dated records
2) know your horse
3) check on your
4) maintain your property
5) install a security system
a farm neighborhood watch
it tough to steal your horse
HORSE THEFT IS A CRIME
OF OPPORTUNITY. DON'T GIVE A THIEF THAT OPPORTUNITY!