Arabian Horse Rustling, Southern Style

The Arabian Rescue Mission, in cahoots with the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Department has taken illegal horse rustling to a whole new level.

The legally questionable seizure of 29 horses and their subsequent release to a private group raises important constitutional questions.


Having stolen a valuable herd of rare Arabian horses in May 2015, the authorities have now charged noted artist Ron Hevener with eight counts of animal mistreatment. Local authorities who have no expertise in Arabian horses claim the animals were not receiving enough feed.

Meanwhile, Arabian Rescue Mission of New Jersey, has put out a call for donated supplies from the public because they are incapable of caring for the horses that they claim Hevener can’t care for. When are they going to be charged with animal mistreatment? They are in over their heads and their public pleas for hay and other feed for the horses prove it. If the Arabian Rescue Mission didn’t have enough feed for these horses, why were they given custody of them?

In fact, it’s worse than that. Terry Figueroa who owns the Arabian Rescue Mission makes her living traveling the nation taking valuable horses away from their owners.  A check of her tax returns shows that she took in $170,900 in 2013, and yet she claims she doesn’t make a salary. If she isn’t making any money, where’d it all go?

A virulent report filed on the National Ripoff Report website claims that the rescue money is misappropriated, Figueroa’s stables are nothing more than mud pits, and rescued horses are abandoned to starve to death if they don’t generate enough money in public donations. Critics of Figueroa claim she has built a brand new indoor horse arena for her private business out of donated rescue funds. But virulent reports on Ripoff websites aren’t the only bad press that Figueroa has gotten.

The claims of misappropriating rescue money was upheld by the Attorney General of New Jersey. In 2012, the state issued a Consent Order against Figueroa for violating New Jersey’s Charitable Registration and Investigation Act by using donated funds for the Arabian Rescue Mission on her own personal bills. In fact, investigators were unable to determine where the money ultimately went, other than, it did not go to any rescued horses. Figueroa was ultimately fined $6,000 for violating New Jersey law.

“However, donor, business, and personal funds in these accounts were so heavily commingled by Figueroa and Millar, it is impossible to determine how funds from these accounts were disbursed.”   Jeffrey S. Chiesa, Acting Attorney General of New Jersey

During the 2014-2015 winter, there were massive hay shortages nationwide caused by the previous summer’s drought. Many hard working farmers and horse owners struggled to buy enough hay for their animals.  Many cattle farmers sold off their herds when they couldn’t find enough food for them. Hay is not something that can be manufactured in a store, it comes in a limited quantity. All throughout the western part of the United States, wild horses under the BLM’s management are starving to death for lack of food.  If the federal government cannot take proper care of the horses under their management, who is Figueroa with a background of charity fraud, to declare that Hevener’s care is substandard? Why is Calhoun County conspiring with Figueroa to profit off of Ron Hevener’s misfortunes?

“The newspapers and local authorities want you to believe that we mistreated our beautiful horses deliberately like some kind of mean-spirited and cruel person might do.”   Ron Hevener.

Additionally Hevener is accused of allowing an elderly horse to die, but animals die every day. Sometimes animals die and people see them before their owner can dispose of the body. It happens. Its life. The Sheriff’s Department has no proof that the mare died due to Heverners care. The fact that an elderly animal died shouldn’t be front page news.

Hevener’s trial starts this week, unfortunately the media and the public have already declared him guilty until proven innocent. As for Figueroa, she’s still fundraising off the horses, and claiming on her website that her barns and fences need repair, who knows where the money is actually going.

Katharine Dokken is a Public Affairs Specialist at The Cavalry Group and the author of a new book, The Art of Terror: Inside the Animal Rights Movement, available on Amazon.

Follow Katharine and The Cavalry Group on Twitter:   @KatharineDokken @TheCavalryGroup

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