Missing horses not abandoned, owner says

A Glade Park man whose three horses were found by searchers on Dec. 21 insists he didn’t abandon the animals.

Bob Cunningham said he was scouting for hunting terrain on Pinon Mesa in late October when the three horses, two mares more than 14 years old and a stud colt, ran off. Cunningham said he searched for the horses a few times, but the longtime resident of the area figured his neighbors would recognize his horses — he’s one of the few area people who owns Arabian horses — and contact him. Cunningham said soon after his horses took off, he injured his back so bad he had to use a wheelchair and could no longer search for the animals.

“It turned out to be a comedy of errors,” Cunningham said by phone Tuesday. “I thought everybody in the world knew (the horses) up there. Everybody had it in their mind that they were abandoned. We got them back; that’s all I care about.”

The Mesa County Sheriff’s Department has not offered any follow-up information since issuing a news release last week about how volunteer searchers located and rescued the horses, which were found in about four feet of snow.

The Sheriff’s Department said at the time that anyone who abandons animals could be charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty. Department officials wouldn’t say whether the owner will face any charges, refusing even to release the name of the horses’ owner, even though the animals were placed back in Cunningham’s care.

State Brand Inspector Keene Raley identified the horses’ owner.

Cunningham said he contacted the Sheriff’s Department after seeing his horses featured on a local television newscast as being abandoned. He said his wife, Elaine, called the Sheriff’s Department about the missing horses months ago when he had lost them.

Bob Cunningham said he admits he made a mistake by not first contacting Raley about the missing animals.

“I could have done things better, no doubt,” he said.

Cunningham’s horses are being kept at the Western Slope Cattlemen’s Livestock Auction in Loma, where he is paying to have them housed.

A 16-year resident of Glade Park who has five other horses, Cunningham said he wants to donate the three rescued horses to a good cause. Cunningham, 65, cited his increasing lack of physical ability and the cost of caring for horses as reasons for wanting to donate the animals.

He said he has not been notified of any charges and was contacted once by Sheriff’s Department deputies only after he called to identify the lost horses.

“As far as I know, nobody’s upset with me,” Cunningham said.


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