Horses at NJ sanctuary were wasting away, officials and advocates charge
WATERFORD — The owner of a South Jersey equine sanctuary was charged with multiple counts of animal cruelty and causing bodily harm to an animal.
Sarah Rabinowitz, 62, owner of the Labrador Hill Equine Sanctuary, was charged on Friday after officers from the Waterford Police Department, agents from the NJSPCA, and a veterinarian from the New Jersey Department of Agriculture met earlier in the week with the Camden County Prosecutor's Office to discuss an ongoing NJSPCA investigation of the facility.
Officers served Rabinowitz a search warrant and issued a court order that immediate measures be taken to provide sufficient water sources and adequate sheltering for the 70 horses, donkeys and other animals housed there.
According to their website, Labrador Hill was started in 2000 and is "dedicated to providing land and sanctuary for the long-term care, training and rehabilitation of equines-donkeys, horses, ponies and mules-and to providing a humane education program for students of all ages and abilities." The website said the facility is a 501c3 non profit organization.
Her husband, Robert, is listed on the website as Labrador's treasurer while daughter Elizabeth is the secretary and an instructor. Robert suffered a stroke in 2012 and is "semi retired," according to the site.
The charges may have stemmed from a visit by Ellen Strack, founder of the South Jersey Horse Rescue. She posted on the group's Facebook page that she visited the sanctuary on July 9 and witnessed "approximately 68 horses, donkeys and mules in terrible condition, with bones sticking out, huge maggot infested wounds, horses dragging their legs, bloody legs from fly bites. Scars from fly bites."
Strack said neighbors and volunteers have told her conditions have been "bad for years" on the farm.
"I don't want anyone running over there and causing problems. However, if you have placed a horse with LABRADOR HILL in Waterford Works, please make arrangements go go pick up your horse NOW. TODAY there are vultures in the back," she said.
Strack also offered to lead a team to "treat and re-home" the horses and was looking for volunteers to help.
"Understand we are looking at severe neglect and some of these horses may be contagious," Strack wrote.
Rabinowitz was recipient of the National Association of Women Business Owners, according to a post on the Labrador website. A video linked to the post was removed by the user.
Rabinowitz and Strack have not yet returned a message seeking comment about the charges.
On Labrador Hills' Facebook page, the group accused critics of harassment and being uninformed about the conditions of the animals.