Sanctuary becomes killing field for “protected” animals

February 17, 2009
Veri, a retired brood mare from Varian Arabian Farms in San Luis Obispo, lies dead after feeling the needle.

Veri, a retired brood mare from Varian Arabian Farms in San Luis Obispo, lies dead after feeling the needle.


A husband and wife team of internationally known environmentalists, paid handsomely to oversee a San Luis Obispo County sanctuary for infirm animals, has ordered the accelerating slaughter of many of their wards.

Former and present employees of the Dancing Star Foundation claim that its top officers, Michael Tobias and Jane Gray Morrison, intend to focus on endangered animals. They say the pair has commenced the systematic elimination of aged and infirm farm animals under the foundation’s care, contrary to the foundation’s purpose.

Tobias and Morrison have reportedly told employees that economic issues prompted the kill policy.

According to the foundation’s 2007 IRS Form 990 filed Oct. 6, 2008, the group had more than $43 million in assets. Tobias, as president, receives a yearly salary of $285,500; Vice President Morrison, $244,000; and Vice President of Finance Don Cannon, $240,000.

The foundation was created by Sue Stiles in 1993 with a focus on providing a refuge for elderly and handicapped farm animals. She opened one sanctuary in Paso Robles for burros, and another in Cayucos which hosts horses, cows, dogs, burros, pigs, and a goat. In January, more than 200 animals were cared for at the Cayucos sanctuary, situated south of Harmony on 700 rolling acres along U.S. Highway 1. A herd of burros wandering among the oak trees is often visible from the highway below.

“Stiles took care of animals in dire need,” said Kathy Duncan, a Morro Bay resident who took her 27-year-old horse to live out its days at Dancing Star. “Sue knew all the animals by name. She asked me to visit when I could, bring carrots, and pet the animals.”

Dying of cancer, Stiles choose Tobias to preside over her non-profit foundation. Tobias is a world traveler and author of 35 books and numerous documentaries focusing on environmental history and animal rights. In 1996, Tobias received the “Courage of Conscience Award” for his commitment to animals. His wife and vice president of the foundation, Morrison, is an ecologist and filmmaker.

The IRS statement claims the foundation spent $2,552,939 on the animal sanctuary in Paso Robles. However, the summary of charitable activities does not mention the Cayucos sanctuary.

“Tobias is stating that the foundation does not have the funds to support these animals that Sue had taken under her wing,” an employee said. “He and his wife have ordered the mass killing of horses, burros, and cows. Originally, it was 20 animals. Then it was five cows and five horses or burros every week until we reached 50 animals. We are nearing that number. Now, there is a new list. We feel this will continue. We also feel their intentions are to close the sanctuary.”

The first round of animals “were stacked like cord wood, until they were bloated, before they were hauled away,” an employee said.

Dancing Star managers informed veterinarian Gary Evans and numerous employees that adopted animals will reduce the numbers slated for execution. Officials claim they investigate possible adoptive families before releasing the animals. Employees state that animals are handed over to anyone with a trailer.

“Employees and friends in utter desperation are allowed to adopt these animals without any paperwork or inspection of the living conditions of where these animals are going,” an employee said. “These employees are making $9 an hour. They can barely feed themselves. It is total chaos.”

Next week, five cows are slated to be killed on Monday, and five horses are on the list for Thursday. The next wave, reported to be 30 animals, is supposed to drag out over a few months.

“Because of the economy, they say they can’t afford to feed the animals and provide medications,” ex-employee Sheldon Rowley said. “Then others say it is quality of life. Now these animals have to look perfectly healthy or they are dust.”

Two local veterinarians have been hired to perform euthanasia. Both horse veterinarian Tristen Weltner and cattle veterinarian Gary Evans assert that all the animals that have been put down have had health problems, though both have also noticed a change in the treatment of animals at the sanctuary during the last month.

“I was told they were out of money,” Evans said. “Sue Stiles would not approve of the way things are being done. Her whole deal was rescuing animals. There were a number of animals born and raised there.”

Squirtle, rescued as a foal by sanctuary founder Sue Stiles, was only 8 years old.

Squirtle, rescued as a foal by sanctuary founder Sue Stiles, was only 8 years old.

Both Evans and numerous employees noted that while foundation officials are firing staff and eliminating animals, they are spending funds on the construction of new barns and upgrading existing facilities.

“They built a new barn for $120,000 then killed the animals in the barn below,” Rowley added. “They are building shelters with no limits. However, they are putting down the animals with health problems and the older ones. You can see were the money is going.”

Sources claim the last round of killings included a group of viable animals.

Carmel was a wild horse and as such required the use of a squeeze (a cage that tightens around an animal’s body) to put her down. Carmel fought and fell in the squeeze, her legs caught in the bars. Her eyes were wide and wild with fear. The vet tried to inject enough drugs to drop the winter-coated mare, but Carmel continued to fight and only part of the killing drugs could be administrated on the first try. During Carmel’s long and painful death, employees stood by weeping.

An 8-year-old paint, Grace, was on and off lame due to a leg deformity. The spirited mare ran back and forth while her barn mates were slaughtered, unaware of the fate she faced. She loved to play and appeared not to be in pain.

Grace didn’t fight as her caregivers stroked her neck to distract her from the prick of the veterinarian’s deadly needle. She fell to the ground amidst the tears of Dancing Star employees.

Both Grace and Amigo, a gelding his caregivers said “was full of life and not ready to go yet,” received a shot of poison through a vein in their necks during the last round of animal eliminations.

“I think they are trying to close the sanctuary,” an employee said. “They are killing healthy animals. It is a sanctuary; all the animals have some problem. We signed on for an animal sanctuary, not a cowboy slaughter ranch. We love the animals; they don’t care.”

When the soft-spoken Tobias took over after Stiles’ death, he promptly banned volunteers and fired all employees hired by the sanctuary’s founder, an employee added. New employees sign an agreement they won’t tell anyone anything about the sanctuary, including that they work there.

“We signed disclosures that we can’t talk to the press,” an employee said. “They can fire without cause. We know we are going to lose our jobs. Two ladies were pushed out for going on maternity leave. Jerry (Smith, sanctuary manager) wants to shoot all the animals. They want us to go away so they can do what they want to.”

During the past month, as Dancing Star officials exterminated animals, they also initiated the staged firing of employees. Smith laid off four caregivers last weekend, bringing the total of dismissed employees to more than 14.

“These questions have nothing to do with you,” Dancing Star manager Smith said when asked by a Cal Coast News reporter why sanctuary officials are systematically killing off their charges and firing employees. “This doesn’t concern you. It is none of your business.”

President Tobias, vice president Morrison, and vice president of finance Don Cannon did not return requests for comment.

Sources claim that after receiving an inheritance of more than $60 million, Stiles chose to dive into philanthropy with a focus on providing a safe haven for aged and infirm farm animals.

“She told me she had inherited money from her aunt who was one of the owners of the [McClatchy] Bee newspapers,” Duncan added. “Sue thought the need was a sanctuary for farm animals. She had a board of directors who were supposed to keep the sanctuary running. This is not what she would have wanted.”

“The foundation mission is to promote and safeguard the earth’s biodiversity, including respect for and the protection of animals. The foundation provides aged, disabled, infirm, or unwanted animals with food, shelter, and veterinary care,” according to the foundation’s 990 form.

Jane Goodall wrote in a preface to Tobias’ book, World War III, “I hope that those reading this book will join Tobias on the path toward the more sustainable and compassionate future, trying to live again as we once did, in harmony with nature, and no longer at war.”




  1. ccn_debate says:

    Member Opinions:
    By: ponymom on 2/28/09
    I am mortified! I came by this video in an odd way- Craigslist Sacramento/Farm and Garden. I live in Clovis- we spend a great deal of time in Cambria and Cayucos- it is like a second home to my family- we had no idea of this atrocity. Something must be done immediately. I am seriously considering hooking up my horse trailer ,driving over and re-rescuing some of these poor animals!
    By: Sinatra on 2/26/09
    I agree this is so morally and ethically wrong, I especially question the ethics of the vetrinarians. The video made me phsically sick. Apparently someone needs to look up definition of sanctuary. The vet Tristan Weltner is an eventer and will be showing at Twin Rivers Winter Horse Trials in Paso Robles this weekend Feb. 27 thru Mar. 1. I'll be taking a road trip!
    By: Princess1 on 2/25/09
    Check out this weenie who is acting as the official spokesperson (paid prostitute) for dancing star.He represents big oil companies when they spill millions of gallons of oil.Tobias and his motley crew have some strange bedfellows.Birds of a feather flock together.
    By: ksimon on 2/25/09
    OMG!!!! THIS IS DISGUSTING!! I can't believe this is real! I am still drying my tears from the video! We all have to do something!!! Can we get that video to the Governor? I noticed one of the poor horses that was KILLED was a horse from Varian Arabians? Has anyone alerted Sheila to these horrible events? I am sending this to every one of my contacts-we have to all stand together and STOP THIS!! One question…who are these vets and maybe folks in your area should STOP using them? NOONE is forcing them to do this! I am equally disgusted with them! Wait till they meet GOD on their judgement day at HIS court!!!
    By: writergirl on 2/24/09
    I am from South Africa, and I am absolutely sickened by the hypocrisy of Tobias, Morrison and the Dancing Star Foundation. Drawing huge personal salaries and murdering the animals they are supposed to be protecting – this is the most shocking and inhumane behaviour I have ever witnessed.

    I couldn't watch more than one minute of that video. Those poor, poor horses. I've also been to the Dancing Star hypocritical website and find it interesting that there are no contact details there! That's very honest and transparent of them, isn't it?
    By: IlonaE on 2/24/09
    Here's a link to the Foundations' website:

    Clearly they state that that Animal Protection is one of their main areas of focus. They need to be exposed to the world community about this horrendous slaughter of animals.

    Also note the "burro" in their logo – interesting that they are killing all of the burro's that Stiles rescued.

    It's obvious they are taking the money and "running" with big salaries and directing the spending on their OWN PERSONAL WORK – not what the Stiles directed for the use of the money.

    Someone should find out who handled this Foundation legally.

    This is just plain sickening.

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  2. ccn_debate says:

    By: IlonaE on 2/24/09
    These Veterinarians should lose their licenses for this. I couldn't watch that video all the way through – THERE WAS NOTHING WRONG WITH THE HORSE.

    Can't someone report these 2 to the State Board of Licensing. It's unethical for them to euthanize healthy animals this way AT A SANCTUARY TO PROTECT THEM.

    Someone should get the IRS INVOLVED – this is a non-profit foundation and they are violating the statement of purpose and OBVIOUSLY WANTING TO TAKE THE MONEY FOR THEMSELVES. How can they justify those salaries???

    Contact the California Revenue Department as well. If they are a California non-profit corporation – FILE A COMPLAINT.
    By: pepper on 2/24/09
    I am from Australia and this story is reaching all animal lovers and supporters of rescue organisations around the world!

    The first thoughts that come to mind are shame, shame, shame, Tobias and Morrison you are both a total disgrace and should be totally ashamed of yourselves. You walked into an organisation that had ample funds to care for those animals in your care and instead are attempting to turn The Dancing Star Foundation into a money making machine, your financers will quickly disappear as they will want no part of it.

    If you say that the sanctuary is in finacial troubles, then how about you take a pay cut from your hefty IRS reported incomes of $240,00 – $285,500 and prove to the world now that you are not in it purely for the money and use those funds to feed the animals you are in charge to care for for the rest of their lives

    I hope others can come to the rescue of those that are awaiting the same fate in the hands of Tobia and Morrisons and those assisting the mass slaughter of creatures that have given their lives to enjoyment to others refuse to assist in one more mass culling

    Shame, shame, shame, Tobias and Morrison a disgrace to all things right and just within animal rights and caring for animals, please do not forget karma is always just around the corner and I hope when you grow old people do not see you as a waste of oxygen and food.
    By: TLP on 2/21/09
    Today I put flowers at the gate of Dancing Star in tribute to the Dancing Stars that have crossed over the Rainbow Bridge.
    By: Spirithorse on 2/21/09
    This just sickens me to no end. Look at the salaries these people receive. How cruel and money hungry they are. They do not care for animals..their actions speak for them..
    By: feministcat on 2/20/09
    what about contacting In Defense of Animals? they are a nonprofit group of legal attorneys that fight for animals.
    By: concernedfriend on 2/20/09
    CBS channel 5 showing story during the 6 o'clock news tonight.
    By: mulekist on 2/20/09
    Here is a petition against Dancing Star Foundation for the un-necessary killing of sanctuary animals;

    Please pass it around!


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  3. ccn_debate says:

    By: karen on 2/20/09
    To watch the video from KSBY, go to,

    We will be posting a video on U-Tube in the near future.
    By: Afriendindeed on 2/20/09
    At 8:45 this morning, I spotted a white "CBS/Channel 5" news van heading north on 101. It turned off on Highway 1.

    By: animalhelper on 2/20/09
    I suggest that we look into having the board of directors thrown out, restructure the board to include a local member for oversight. Until this happens the sanctuary can be run by the "good" past and present employees, hopefully ASAP. Jerry has to go, but there are a lot of good employees, especially the caring ones who have spoken out. How can this be accomplished?
    By: Laura on 2/20/09
    Thanks for the address AFriendindeed. I think we should write them letters letting them know what we think of their actions.
    By: Afriendindeed on 2/20/09
    According to

    Michael Tobias and Jane Gray Morrison
    319 SUMAC LN
    SANTA MONICA, CA 90402

    Anybody up for a road trip?
    By: TLP on 2/20/09
    I support the idea of a vigil in front of Dancing Star. Does anyone know who the 3rd horse in the video footage is on the other side of the fencing? Was that Tristan Weltner administering the shots on the video? It's a terrible thing these people have done to destroy these noble creatures and a travesty of the loving vision Sue offered us all in kindness and hope.
    By: Cindy on 2/19/09
    I just watched the footage from KSBY. I'm pleased that they got the word out but I wish they would have mentioned the salaries of the 3 "top dogs" rather than only mentioning the problems with the economic downturn. These people inherited 50 million dollars to care for these animals.
    By: feministcat on 2/19/09
    I'm so disturbed. I just watched the ksby footage and I'm shocked that these animals were killed when I know there would be so many people willing to take them in and give them a place to live. I can't believe this happened. I really hope those people are fired and the rest of the animals are safe. I feel like gathering people together and holding a vigil along side the highway with protest signs and flowers for the horses that were murdered until something is done about the people in charge out there.
    By: feministcat on 2/19/09
    To Warhorse and saveourfriendsplease – could you please tell me if you know anything about the cats that were living at Dancing Star? I brought them out there about 5 years ago, and was promised they would be cared for. I was contacted by some of the volunteers who requested cats to live in the barns and I took about 15 of them from Animal Services in SLO and had them spayed/neutered. We brought them in large cages and they were housed for a few weeks while getting adapted to the barns. They were kept in the loft area of the barns. The volunteers fed them every day, and after a few weeks the cats were released. They were supposed to be fed and looked after and I'm wondering if there are still any left out there and if they are being fed or left to starve. If you know anything about this or know someone who may, please contact me at I really hope the entire board is fired and replaced by some of these caregivers who really care about the animals. If Sue has any power in the world beyond, I'm sure she will make it so.

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  4. ccn_debate says:

    By: warhorse on 2/19/09
    this message is directed to whomever dropped off a white quarterhorse and one chestnut about a year ago anonymously i offer my condolences as the chestnut was one of the first to be euthanized to meet their quota he was dubbed amigo and his buddy dos, they were inseparable beautiful amigo and his big soulful eyes will be sorely missed
    By: Princess1 on 2/19/09
    Tobias has taken the dream and the money of a beautiful woman who went by the name "Sue Stiles",And has erased her wonderful dream and replaced it with his own selfish ego-driven nightmare.I wouldnt put it past the monster to "lay-off" all present employees and hire a bunch of russian mail order brides to work there.
    By: saveourfriendsplease on 2/19/09
    see the video footage of the heinous deaths of apache chico snake and grace go to to the animal sanctuary story
    By: ponyup on 2/19/09
    I can't help wondering what happened to the original By-Laws of the foundation? And where is the Board Of Directors in all of this? The entire situation stinks to high heaven! Certainly there must be a trustee in charge of the foundation's funds. If so, they must be asleep at the wheel. These animals are paying the ultimate price and the people running the place sound like a bunch of criminals.
    By: MarjorieC on 2/19/09
    How absolutely horrible.

    I hope everyone hears about what a fraud Tobias and his wife are.

    Don't they have guidelines that they have to follow? Are these actions legal? If these were wild horses and burros, then I believe killing them is against the law?

    I'm so disgusted, but I'm glad everyone will know about this monster, Tobias.

    By: saveourfriendsplease on 2/19/09
    how about a committee of caretakers formed by the caretakers who love these animals.
    long live the memories of star chico apache and grace gentle spirits snuffed out by greed
    By: cayucoscowgirl on 2/19/09
    Dancing Star Foundation-Cayucos
    4025 Hwy 1
    Harmony (as in the phone book)

    Call: (805) 927-0484

    There should be an interim commitee apointed to handle the Cayucos, (and possibly all,) location until this is all resolved. There are ranchers with extensive Veterinarian experience all living in the immidiate area of this ranch who could all take shifts to see that things are handled the way that Susan Stiles would have handled it…….with the animals welfare first and foremost, and with love. The point of the matter is, this is supposed to be a SANCTUARY. The animals have a legal right to sanctuary as do the folks have the right to expect and be guaranteed that the animals they leave at Dancing Star will live their lives out in a safe and caring environment. These city slickers need to go back to Hollywood and stay there where they can fool all the people who belive in what people say rather than believe WHAT THEY DO!! These people are nothing more than Grifters. But they won't fool us country bumkins.
    By: saveourfriendsplease on 2/19/09
    anyone interested in trying to adopt these animals please feel free to contact dancing star in cayucos, but good luck because they have discouraged us from trying to find homes for them, and we were told that no one will be allowed on the property, by our foreman.

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  5. ccn_debate says:

    By: sick on 2/19/09
    Can somebody please list a number for the sanctuary? I'm sure there are plenty of people out there (me included) who would give some of these "special needs" animals a lifetime of pasture to graze!!!
    By: Cindy on 2/19/09
    Kudo's to KSBY TV and all those who are getting the word out.
    To John Holland,
    The 3 people who are running this Sanctuary and taking the absorbent salaries are the directors. The entire board needs to be replaced and new fiduciaries need to be appointed by a court.
    By: saveourfriendsplease on 2/19/09
    everyone please watch the 6 o'clock news on ksby channel 6. They are doing a segment on dancing star and will be showing footage of the last killings. Thank you all for your support and guidance. We caretakers and all our beloved friends truly appreciate it.
    By: John_Holland on 2/19/09
    Unbelievable! They are clearly subverting the trust put in them by Sue Stiles. They could easily have placed some of those animals if they had even tried, and clearly there was no lack of money if they paid themselves each more than the President of the United States makes. For a charity! The whole thing stinks.

    The board needs to fire these people. If they do not, they become part of the scam and cover-up. I have been in that position and I have never regretted sending the CEO packing with nothing but his tooth brush.
    By: Me on 2/19/09
    To contact the California Attorney General's office, use this link:

    By: feministcat on 2/19/09
    Please contact me if you have any information about the cats I took out to the Cayucous "Sanctuary" about 5 years ago. I rescued at least 15 cats from SLO Animal Services, had them all spayed/neutered, and took them to the barns to be mousers. I was promised they would be fed and looked after for the duration of their lives. Now I am afraid they are not being fed and may be forgotten about. I am also horrified and appalled that this could be happening out there. I was so amazed at what Sue had done and was happy to leave the cats in the care of those volunteers. It sounds like the people in charge need to be fired or arrested for what they are doing. I would really like to be informed about what is going on there, and if anyone knows anything about the cats please contact me. I may be able to take on some of those animals that are going to be killed. I have 5 acres in Atascadero. Please email me at ASAP if you know who I can contact to find out more. Bless all those volunteers and the animals.
    By: DanBlackburn on 2/19/09
    This Web address is Thanks for everyone's interest!!!
    By: sunnyhaven on 2/19/09
    Please go online to the national news agencies and get the word out so this outfit can be investigated. You can just direct them to check out
    don't let them get away with this.
    By: mcdonald on 2/19/09
    I heard the story on Dave Congalton yesterday. I want to thank Dave, Karen and Dan for bringing this to the publics attention. I do encourage people to bring this to the attention of the AG and the IRS. If there is enough public concern one or both of the agencies should investigate. I also want to encourage people to write to other press including the LA Times.
    By: sloconcerned on 2/19/09
    I'd also suggest people contact the California Attorney General's office and try to convince them to look into this. The AG's office is the public's "watchdog" organization over charitable trusts.

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  6. ccn_debate says:

    By: fightforourfriends on 2/18/09
    I've just been told by a current employee that no animals will be euthanized this coming week! Keep speaking out! I know all the employees still there are appreciative of your support!
    By: Booty_Juice on 2/18/09
    He and his wife are being paid $520,000 a year to kill some farm aninmals? That's a sweet gig, and one f*cked up board.
    By: Cindy on 2/18/09
    I'm wondering if you have the video up on U Tube yet? Not that i want to see it myself because i know it would be too hurtful to see that young 8 year old horse die the way you described it but it should be available for those who can watch it and maybe assist legal channels .
    By: Nancy on 2/18/09
    It sounds like the board has expanded the original mission statement to include exotic wildlife and eco-systems. This is what Tobias is really into and he has diverted the intention of the trust funds earmarked to the foundation to pursue his own interests.
    Too much money has engendered these fiduciaries.
    By: Laura on 2/18/09
    I'm going to call those vets too. This is such a disgusting example of greed and breach of trust. These three board members are bilking the foundation with absorbent unearned salaries (illegal according to the IRS) and killing creatures that the funds were intended to protect. Shame on these people. I hope they saved some of the money they took because they will have to pay a lot of it back to the foundation.
    By: Cindy on 2/18/09
    I just called both vets offices and left a message letting them know that they should not continue to euthanise these animals. There is a public outcry for an investigation and these animals might well be saved given the necessary time. I hope lots of people call the two vets listed by "bluemule"
    By: bluemule on 2/18/09
    According to the KVEC show, there are 5 more horses slated to be killed on Monday, and 5 more cows on Thursday. Probably the best way to keep this from happening is to put some pressure on the vets who are hired to do the dirty deeds. From the SLO County phone book:

    Gary Evans, DVM (does the cows)

    Tristen Weltner, DVM, self-described "Horse Fixer"(!)

    With all the uproar, I'd be surprised if these two professionals go through with the killings next week, but calling them to make sure couldn't hurt.
    By: AnimalPlace on 2/18/09
    Thank you for bringing this issue to light. As an employee of a farmed animal sanctuary up in northern California, I can safely say we were all absolutely appalled that not only were these animals (possibly) unduly being killed BUT that the top three employees were raking in $250,000+ salaries.

    That is not the norm for sanctuary work nor should it be. We're here to help improve the lives of animals not rake in the dough.

    For people who want to donate to a sanctuary, make sure they are on charity navigator with a 3 or 4 star rating. Our sanctuary, Animal Place, is a 4-star rated charity and spends the majority of our funds on caring for the animals, not on paying staff exorbitantly.

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  7. ccn_debate says:

    By: ThomasPaine on 2/18/09
    Estate taxes are a good and necessary tax. What is happening to these animals is not.
    By: hotdog on 2/18/09
    If I were making 285 k looking after a few farm animals I would certainly find the money to feed them. Where is the governing board? Why are they allowing this travesty? Lock them all up.
    By: saveourfriendsplease on 2/18/09
    wow. This is not about estate taxes. This is about our beautiful animals that some of us have taken care of for years being exterminated because your boss says we do not have the money to feed them. This is about having your heart broken while watching your beloved friend be put to death. It us about love and trust and violating their mission to see these animals cared for. It is about them not trying to adopt them out to people who will love and cherish their beauty and majesty and the joy they bring.
    By: Paso_Guy on 2/18/09

    Estate taxes should be done away with…what right has the feds to rape and pilage the dead?

    More power to thenm if they found a way around the death tax
    By: karen on 2/18/09
    I will be on the Dave Congalton show tonight at 4 p.m. to discuss this issue. Turn your radio dial to 920AM or listen live at
    By: Newsome on 2/18/09
    Yes, that was callous of me to define the issue in simplistice management/staff terms at the exclusion of all else.

    How about my first post, equating the Foundation to a taxpayer-subsidized lark? Anyone out there have any experience or opinion regarding using charitable foundations as an estate tax hedge?
    By: CcPR on 2/18/09
    Newsome: You really need to stay out of this! Obviously YOU do not understand 'sanctuary' nor the mission of Sue re: the rescue of these animals. Her money should be spent her way! You are the donkey!

    That said: Shut up!!
    By: starvingmexican on 2/18/09
    These beautiful creatures could of been donated to the homeless immigrants for food.What a waste.
    By: cayucoscowgirl on 2/18/09
    Thank you Karen for shedding light on this tragic story. And thanks to Dave for airing it on the Congalton show. This story is so heartbreaking. I feel terrible for Sue Stiles as she trusted these people to act on her behalf to take care of these precious animals. The ranch is right in my backyard and I was totally unaware of what was happening. I have known for years that the emplyee turnover was very high at Dancing Star and that the workers were not treated well.
    I feel strongly that the ranch and all of Sue Stiles interestes should be seized from the evil hands that have anything to do with the murder of these animals. Furthermore, the employees should be compensated by the married couple for pain and suffering. This has damaged the name "Cayucos" and being a long time business owner in Cayucos, I tke major offense to these people damaging the towns name along with the pain and suffering caused to people who care about the welfare of animals.
    These actions are pure evil.

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  8. ccn_debate says:

    By: nosedatruth on 2/17/09
    A sad story, if true, and one that needs to be fairly investigated by those without an axe to grind. If the salaries are accurate, the directors of the foundation should be held to account. But since the story has Highway 101 running through Cayucos, I wonder what else that is reported as fact is inaccurate.

    This site has no credibility until sources are named and basic facts are gotten straight.
    By: Princess1 on 2/17/09
    The governing body of Dancing star obviously wants to get out of the sanctuary with the bulk of MRS.Stiles money securly in thier pockets.I feel so bad for the poor caregivers who have come to love these animals as thier own,to now have to sit by and watch them eliminated before thier eyes.Tobias needs to be exposed as the self serving monster he is, rather than the savior that he has duped the world into believing.
    By: ThomasPaine on 2/17/09
    This just doesn't make sense and those salaries are outrageous. I have plenty of land and pasture if someone can post a phone number. Would others be allowed to take in the remaining animals?
    By: GrayGranny on 2/17/09
    This was a hard story to read. After listening to the Dave Congalton show today and hearing employees of the sanctuary call and confirm this story, I'm even more sick to my stomach. The sanctuary was founded for those that needed a refuge for their animals otherwise, they could have had them slaughtered themselves. Why is this tolerated?
    By: bluemule on 2/17/09
    Good lord.

    Who sits on the board of directors of this foundation? They need to put a stop to this mess pronto.

    Who is in charge of managing the $43m endowment? I hope they didn't have it parked with Bernie Madoff or Estate Financial.
    By: saveourfriendsplease on 2/17/09
    we appreciate everyones support during these horrendous times. those of us still out here with some of our former staff are trying to fight the good fight. any help that anyone can offer would be greatly appreciated. help us save the five cows slated for slaughter this coming monday and the five equine slated for thursday. thanks you
    By: Newsome on 2/17/09
    Bluebird: What story?

    At the most basic level it is the story of staff not liking management's decisions and directions.
    By: Bluebird on 2/17/09
    Karen-Once again thanks for getting this tragic story out. Now that it is out how do we get the authorities to investigate and make charges. Bruce Gibson is the county supervisor for that area. I plan to contact his office for direction. The fact that these people have money and are "celebrities" will make it all the more difficult to get public officials to take action. Without pressure from the public the story will disappear.
    By: sunnyhaven on 2/17/09
    I too, knew Sue Stiles when she first purchased the Cayucos ranch. In fact, most of the burros were adopted from BLM adoption facilities, which are pretty strict about what you can & can't do with the adoptees
    animals. She would be livid!

    Thank you for reporting this story. It was a real eye opener, and I hope all the players involved will be investigated and convicted of animal cruelty & fraud.

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  9. ccn_debate says:

    By: Cindy on 2/17/09
    This certainly is the business of the public. If the conditions of this foundation's trust are not being followed by the fiduciaries then this "foundation" is operating in violation of it's legal intended and willed purpose. The slaughter of these innocent animals is egregious when one considers the amount of fund's that Ms Stiles' (their benefactor) intended to be used for their continued care.
    I too am disgusted at the ridiculous salaries these "top dogs" are paying themselves to manage 50 animals. I sure hope this is looked into further and that there is some legal over site in the future. Good story Karen.
    By: NorthCountyGuy on 2/17/09
    Will people who happen to be "economic inconveniences" to the Ruling Elites of SLO County be next????
    By: paperboy on 2/17/09
    I knew Sue Stiles and I agree that she would be furious over this.
    Her whole idea was to provide SANCTUARY to these animals, not to line the pockets of some phony-baloney who is obviously in it for the money.
    The whole idea was to give these poor animals a place to grow old and die peacefully. Not to be killed and left to rot like cord wood.
    Sue would have killed these people with her bare hands for what they're doing.
    This is what happens when these kinds of things are kept secret. Sue held her privacy close to the heart and while she was alive it was OK to keep the public off the property, but with her gone, and these morons in charge, it is not OK to be secretive.
    Why in the world would someone have to sign a non-disclosure agreement for a job that pays $9 an hour unless the people in charge have something to hide.
    They need to open the operation up to the press and the public if they have nothing to hide.
    And who the hell are these vets to put down healthy animals just for money? They should lose their licenses and be horse whipped for doing this.
    I used to smile whenever I drove past the sanctuary but now…

    By: hotdog on 2/17/09
    I'm wondering about the incredible salaries the three top folks make. Just like with Wall Street and elsewhere, if times are tight it is obvious where to do the first cuts. Cut out the fat: cut out the fat salaries, perks, stock options and all that junk. Most people work for a straight salary of 20-60k/year and make do. What's up with these 'environmentalists' making a killing managing some farm animals?
    By: Newsome on 2/17/09
    I believe the notion of these Foundations is to give an outlet for the ultra-rich to avoid estate taxes. If so, then we should review the actions of Dancing Star and others with an eye for whether we approve of our un-received tax monies being spent in that manner.

    If the McClachy estate had been handed over in estate taxes, instead of Stiles' pet project (bad pun), then there'd be no home for wayward donkeys in the first place. On the other hand, there would be several million dollars more available for governmental spending.

    Just a thought.
    By: karen on 2/17/09
    I will be on the Dave Congalton show tonight at 4 p.m. to discuss this issue. Turn your radio dial to 920AM or listen live at

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