Horse sanctuary foreman fined for killing wild pigs
December 23, 2009
By KAREN VELIE
Dancing Star Foundation reportedly levied fines against its foreman for illegal poaching at the sanctuary, situated south of Harmony on 700 rolling acres along U.S. Highway 1, sources said.
Former employees of the Dancing Star Sanctuary told CalCoastNews that foreman Jerry Smith shot and killed wild pigs at the sanctuary without the proper license earlier this year. Fish and Game officials fined the foreman for the killing, which sources report was then paid by the Dancing Star Foundation.
“I have no idea what you are talking about,” said Dancing Star Foundation’s Vice President of Finance Don Cannon.
Smith did not return requests for comment.
In addition to killing wild pigs, sources claim ranch hands cut the head off a Watusi cow, after a local veterinarian had euthanized the animal, so that it could be used to construct a roping dummy. Numerous past employees claim that the current sanctuary administration has turned the animal refuge into a slaughter yard.
Earlier this year, employees of the sanctuary said that foundation administrators had ordered the accelerated slaughter of many of their wards. In just a few months, 30 of the sanctuary’s 200 animals were killed.
Following a CalCoastNews report of the organized destruction of animals entrusted to the ocean-side sanctuary, the non-profit board members abruptly stopped systematic animal eliminations.
Nevertheless, since our February article was posted, all but three employees have either been fired or quit working for the non-profit.
Earlier this year, Smith ordered maintenance supervisor Jason Hamaker to vacate within 24 hours the ranch home he occupied, and fired the outspoken employee who helped bring to light the killing of healthy animals at the Cayucos sanctuary. Sources report Dancing Star board members approved a hefty settlement to Hamaker who had hired an attorney to represent him.
Hamaker, who reportedly signed a confidentiality agreement as part of the settlement, did not return requests for comment.
A “kill list,” prepared with the help of a veterinarian and weighted heavily by economic considerations, was used to determine which five horses and which five cows to eliminate each week. These factors included individual animals’ costs relating to food and medication needs.
Sue Stiles started the foundation in 1993 with a focus on providing a refuge for elderly and handicapped horses, cows and burros. She reportedly endowed the foundation with more than $60 million to keep her dream alive. Stiles died in 2002 after putting her mission statement on record:
“The purpose of this corporation shall be (1) for the prevention of cruelty and the provisions of care for domestic animals and, (2) to make grants, donations, gifts, and contributions from its net income or assets, exclusively for charitable, scientific, literary, artistic, or educational purposes…” according to amended bylaws Stiles submitted during her illness, on March 11, 1998.
Former and present employees of the Dancing Star Foundation claim that its top officers, Michael Tobias and Jane Gray Morrison, have vacillated between claims that either economic issues or quality of life concerns prompted their 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 Animal Place Sanctuary, with assistance from Lucy Sheldon, applied to California’s Secretary of State for the non-profit corporation’s filings and sent them to the Attorney General with a request seeking an investigation. A spokesman for California Attorney General Jerry Brown, Evan Westrup, said he could not deny or confirm an ongoing investigation of the current Dancing Star board.
An Atascadero resident who had surrendered an animal to Dancing Star because of the intent of the foundation and her conversations with Stiles, asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate how the current board is managing monies.
Click on the following link to watch a video, shot by a former sanctuary employee, of a day of killing at Dancing Star animal sanctuary: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omgF2NqgXsw