17 News has an update to a story we brought earlier this week about a local horse rescue neglecting its animals.
Bit-O-Heaven Ranch, a horse rescue near S. Enos Lane and Taft Highway, is closing doors, according to its volunteers. This comes after the ranch surrendered 11 underweight and malnourished horses to Kern County Animal Services Monday.
17 News spoke with a ranch volunteer on Tuesday who said the team is heartbroken, painting a picture of a struggling organization without the means to keep operating.
“The new owners and management were doing everything to help us as well,” said Bit-O-Heaven volunteer, Jade Garone. “It wasn’t just volunteers, it was all of us trying to pull funds together to take care of these animals … It takes thousands of dollars a month just to feed them, and when animal control came out yesterday there was only 200 dollars in the bank and we were all scrambling to get money and get feed for these animals.”
Late last year, Bit-O-Heaven changed ownership, according to Garone. She says the previous owner did not leave the new team adequately positioned to continue the good work the ranch had done over the years.
17 News spoke with the founder and previous owner of Bit-O-Heaven Ranch, Tracy Totton Martin, by phone Tuesday night.
Martin said she was never made aware there was a problem, and insists she set up the business nearly twenty years ago to succeed under the new leadership.
No felony arrests were made when the horses were surrendered to county officials, but misdemeanor citations were issued, according to officials.
The remaining horses will be donated to an out-of-state sanctuary, according to Garone.
Kern County Animal Services spokesperson Nick Cullen says all the horses are available for adoption after they were surrendered, however.
A few of the horses are being treated by veterinarians at the Fruitvale Animal Center.