The Philadelphia Inquirer from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on February 2, 1984 · Page 8
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The Philadelphia Inquirer from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania · Page 8

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Issue Date:
Thursday, February 2, 1984
Page 8
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8-Afc Thursday, Feb. 2, 1984 Philadelphia Inquirer The collapse of a horse-trading deal SSeeWtoS A trail of dead animals and financial disaster By Pamela Lyon Dallas Timet MereM Mrvlce MARLIN, Texas Horses Unlimit-, ed was as ambitious as Its name implied. It was a venture that had hoped to corner the market on horseflesh and parlay the lush pastures that made Falls County in central Texas the state's leading producer of stock calves into the nation's horse-trading capital It promised ranchers, battered by several years of depressed cattle prices, a guaranteed profit, with little apparent risk. Although there were those who warned that the scheme would not work, some of the county's most prominent cattlemen became involved. But when the dream fell apart Jan. 13, more than a dozen Falls County ranchers faced financial disaster, and 1,200 to 2,000 horses were dead. Many of the animals apparently had starved to death, victims of crowding on inadequate pastures, a freeze that destroyed much of the county's forage and the sudden announcement that Horses Unlimited would not honor its contracts to buy the animals back. "I think it's one of the most monstrous atrocities that I can recall ever happening in this country," said Cleveland Amory, president of the New York-based Fund for Animals, an animal-protection group. "I think every decent person in Texas and throughout the country is shocked and disgusted. To attempt to make money out of the misery of other creatures is mankind at its lowest." In the last three weeks, there has been talk of little else in Falls County but the collapse of Horses Unlimited, what happened to some of the 15,000 horses it brought to Marlin and who was to blame. Horses Unlimited president Roland Jones Jr., a Bosque County rancher and former board chairman of the -Bosque County Bank, has been accused in criminal complaints filed by seven ranchers of 12 counts of theft totaling more than S2.2 million. Jerry Owens, a Texas representative of the Fund for Animals, has filed a criminal complaint against Horses Unlimited and Jones alleging cruelty to animals. In all, Jones has posted $168,000 in bonds. Jones has been unavailable for comment, but a Waco attorney representing him has said Jones is innocent of all charges. Jones' associate, Roy Dwain Plunkett, an ex-convict who devised the horse-trading enterprise, has been named in animal-cruelty complaints filed by the Washington-based People for Ethical Treatment of Animals. That organization has filed an animal-cruelty complaint against a Falls County rancher, who in turn filed trespassing complaints against the animal-treatment group's chairman, Alex Pacheco, and investigator Carrie Randel. Plunkett and ranchers who invested in the scheme deny that any cni-mals were deliberately allowed to starve or were mistreated, saying the entrepreneurs were as much victims of complicated and adverse circumstances as the horses were. . A county grand Jury has been convened to investigate the theft and cruelty complaints and is to meet Feb. 13, District Attorney Tom Sehon said. ' ..' . . ,. ' Representatives of five state and national humane organizations have gone to Falls County to investigate the deaths and to assist local authori ties. Some say they will exert pressure for the punishment of any ranchers or business people who allowed horses to die. Animal cruelty is a misdemeanor, with a maximum punishment of $2,000 and a year in prison. Animal-protection activists have had to face some pointed questions themselves. Three groups received reports months ago about neglected horses, and all failed to document or expose the problem. Since the collapse of Horses Unlimited, na'ional publicity about the animal deaths has made the surviving horses the beneficiaries of widespread interest and charity. Hay, feed and more than $20,000 have been donated to two "Save the Horses" funds set up by a Cedar Springs rancher and two Falls County newspapers. Rancher Don Walker and Owens said the contributions were helping to feed the estimated 6,000 to 10,000 horses remaining in Falls County, while the owners and possibly the courts decide their fate. People have come from all over central Texas to buy horses from the ranchers, and as many as 2,000 horses have been shipped to slaughterhouses, said Capt. George Heubner of the Texas Animal Cruelty Enforcement Division, a private, investigative group. 'The impulse is to clean it up and not ever let this happen again, and that's probably right," Heubner said. Slaughtering horses "is a real nasty thing, but, practically speaking, you can't do much else. The ranchers, local government and the humane groups don't have the money to keep on feeding these animals indefinitely," he said. Although the most glaring evidence of the tragedy has been removed the emaciated corpses that once dotted pastures the accusations and recriminations are mount- . ing. They revolve around the business agreements the Plunkett-Jones partnership and Horses Unlimited had with participating ranchers in the county. Some ranchers insist that the scandal could have been avoided if the horse-brokering company had just kept its part of the deal to buy back all the horses the company had sold the ranchers for fattening, and to pay them the promised $1 a day for grazing on the ranchers' pastures. , Some county residents and animal-protection activists said that some ranchers' visions of a quick profit or at least guaranteed income had caused serious abuses long before the freeze hit and the company reneged. Horses were being crowded on overgrazed pastures that, even in bountiful times, could not have nourished them, they said. Some residents, they said, apparently ignored the problem because they were eager for the prosperity a large horse-brokering operation would mean for the county. Plunkett does not deny that the idea behind Horses Unlimited was to make money, and lots of it. "You can generate a lot of money if you can get enough volume," he said. "But we got too much volume. ..." Plunkett, 33, said he and Jones had launched the horse-investment plan in September 1982 as the result of discussions after he came to Jones' 25-S IFF AT THESE LOCATIONS 1533 Chestnut St. and 1324 Walnut St. THURSDAY. 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OFFER ENDS 24 tm eC3 m m wr m m m m i 111 y Cm Dsa ' CENTER CITY LOCATIONS 1016 CHESTNUT ST. 922-1965 SPRINGFIELD. PA. CHOSPnOUt VI114QI eAlTIMORt 320 543-2010 1533 CHESTNUT ST. 563-S803 1 Houn photo rmiweNO VIDEO STORF 624 MARKET ST. 925-5387 NEW LOCATION 1324 WALNUT ST. (at Juntptw St. I 545-7761 ABINGTON AifGTO SMOPWNG CT OVP VOAV0 LONDON ADS 885-0597 WILMINGTON. DEL. vioeo coMeuTia stoat 108 W 9th ST 302-655-4459 f. MARLTON. N.J. TS TO 73!Cf 2941 JEFFERSON WARD Shopping cf ntfr 609-983-3231 CHERRY HILL. N.J. CHERRY HILL MALL 609-665-0777 OPEN SUN 12-S ' VIDEO STORE BURLINGTON. N.J. BURLINGTON CENTER FOTO FIRST 609-387-7585 1 ROW PNOTg nKSMIW 0M.T bank to get a loan for some horse transactions. A "horse-trader" all his life, Plunkett said he had been enthusiastic about the opportunity for success. He said he had served five years in the state penitentiary on a 197S bad-check charge related to a horse deal. The partnership with Jones offered the advantages of abundant financial resources and good standing in the community, he said. He said they had seen profit potential in the demand for horse meat, which is made into pet food and packaged for human consumption, especially for export to France and Belgium. If a horse-fattening and -selling operation were large enough, Plunkett said, it could conceivably influence the prices horses brought at the slaughterhouse. E it t . ,i mi ibt : T A - lU Our hand-tailored English worsted Three Piece Suits ; Regular$295' $117 Now 50 off . IHt I 0J Harris Tweed and Shetland Sportcoals '69.00: Reg. $138 & up Now 60 off From All Men ' Clothing and Apparel 50 off orig. prices WlTUN uCb CALLACHE . 1 -I..L.: I.. DMI..alsMt PewmU - Jp ! !i Cwt City. Philad 1 i El ruiiiwilyaiwyolonwo Iff 11 umm iwiwt . Jenkintowni Foxeroft Square (next to lord & Taylor) .(215)576-0647 . , Daily 9i30 to 5.30 (Wed. & Fri. fil 9) ., a tin.;, rn. onOA AtUntir Ave. (609 347-S854 . 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Further reductions may have been taken. We honor American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard, Visa. 15th at Walnut; Moorestown Mall: 101 East City Line Avenue,' Bala Cynwyd Shopping Center. Limited selections available at our new Showcase Shop in Ballv's Park Place Casino Hotel, Atlantic City All stores open evenings lilt 9 (Center City till 5:30) Free parking at all stores. 1 5

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