☛ Opinion piece on Dual Peppy Saga 11-1-14
THE “JUSTICE FOR DUAL PEPPY” SAGA CONTINUES
A Personal Opinion Piece
By Rick Dennis
Oct. 31, 2014
Dual Peppy in his early years when he was standing at stud.
By now, I’m quite sure just about everybody who reads this news magazine or frequents the social media network Facebook.com is familiar with the continuous news broadcasts concerning Dual Peppy and the horse abuse case in Black Forrest, Colo. This particular incident is not just another case of alleged animal abuse but a highly publicized allegation of animal abuse reaching national and international proportions of support, with the audience demanding “Justice For Dual Peppy” as well as the other horses in the mix owned by Colorado Springs, Colo., residents Rick and Sherri Brunzell.
To summarize, this case is quite simple. Rick and Sherri Brunzell own the horses involved in this case and rent the barn where the horses were being kept. Sherri Brunzell was charged with animal cruelty by the El Paso County Sheriffs Office pursuant to a complaint of animal abuse being reported by a neighbor and a search warrant execution resulting in the discovery of fourteen dead and decomposed horses, including full skeletal remains, ten live but emaciated and starving horses and four lamas. All animals, dead and alive, were found residing in the same barn amid a mountain of dried manure.
Pursuant to the discovery and seizure of the living animals, portions of the skeletal remains, (i.e.) bones of the deceased horses, were collected by veterinarian Dr. Randy Parker, and forwarded to Colorado State University for clinical analysis to determine the age of the deceased and the cause of death with an emphasis being placed on the fat content of the bone marrow to determine whether or not malnutrition was a mitigating factor at the time of death.
Since I am a criminal investigator, experience has taught me that an individual can’t serve two masters. It has been reported that Dr. Parker, the veterinarian attending to the onsite forensic portion of the criminal investigation, worked not only for the Brunzells at one time but also for the Sheriff’s Office Mounted Division. My first thought to this association is that a defense attorney may identify or infer this relationship as a “Conflict of Interest,” especially in a criminal trial. In my opinion, it would have been better for Dr. Parker to recuse himself to exclude any and/or all hints of impropriety – whether any exists or not. In law enforcement, criminal investigators refer to this as, “Does It Pass The Stink Test?”
Since the discovery, the news media, as well as social media, has inundated the public with continuous news reports concerning these horses and lamas as well as the road to recovery for the live ones. Equally, there has been a lot of speculation concerning individual actions in this matter as well as what I challenge, in some instances, as legitimate claims of authenticity. Actually, I have enjoyed the news releases and the heightened awareness these dedicated journalists have brought to the forefront of animal abuse. Each and every one should be commended for their hard work and dedication to the cause!
For certain, one lingering rumor and fact that should be cleared up is, “Who contacted The American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) and the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) concerning this matter. Well that ladies and gentleman is non-other than myself! I learned of the dire situation concerning these horses on Saturday and contacted the AQHA and the NCHA on Monday, requesting an immediate response and investigation into this matter. Mr. Ward Stutz, the AQHA Senior Director of Integrity and Education, and Mr. Jim Bret Campbell, Executive Director of the NCHA both deserve a standing ovation and round of applause for their immediate response.
The AQHA denied any and all privileges including registration-related transactions and participation in AQHA events. They also denied Brunzell access or presence on show grounds of AQHA-approved shows.
Am I familiar with Dual Peppy? You bet! I met Dual Peppy along with the other two Dual Pep brothers, Mister Dual Pep and Dually Pep, while learning the art of training and showing the reined cow horse at the legendary Ward Ranch, Tulare, Calif. Do I know the Brunzells? You bet. I’m not only familiar with the sale of Dual Peppy to the Brunzells, but the horse’s breeding and showing career. To describe Dual Peppy in the cutting pen is akin to watching a bolt of lightning gliding across the arena on coiled muscles ready to catapult horse and rider to the next position but with the effortless grace of a ballerina. Above all, he’s an NCHA World Champion and a world class sire!
Dual Peppy is a kind and gentle horse with an eye as big as a golf ball and a heart as big as they come. Just like the other Dual Pep brothers, he was bred, raised, trained and shown by the legendary Hall of Fame reined cow horse “Master” and breeder Greg Ward. In fact, I had the prestigious honor of owning and showing Dual Train, the first foal out Dual Peppy. She is one of the last two horses trained by Greg Ward (the other is Reminics Pep). Both horses’ impressive show records are in the record books. I also had another horse in my training barn sired by this great stallion that I trained. Her name is Peppysvegashowgirl.
True to form, this horse also became a superstar, earning a fifth place in the National Standings of the AQHA in limited rider cow horse as a 4-year-old with Lucy Tetlow, her 65-year-old, first-time competitor aboard. This mare went on to be a money earner at the Stock Shows in reining, cutting and cow horse as well as a buckle earner with the National Stock Horse Association in California. All in all, Dual Peppy is a great horse and not deserving of the horrific blow he’s been dealt, as well as the other horses and the lamas entwined in this horrid event, or any abused animal for that matter.
Oct. 29 Hearing:
Today I was contacted by an individual in the area and was advised that a court hearing was conducted on the subject matter on Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014 that this individual attended whereby the following two relevant facts were brought out at the hearing:
No. (1) – Brunzell’s attorney filed a motion for a “Change of Venue”.
In simple terms this means an individual awaiting trial feels he or she cannot receive a fair trial due to the publicity of the case. I was told this motion was denied by the judge, and
No. (2) – Brunzell’s attorney requested a “Gag Order” to prevent the dissemination of information concerning the case, that was split down the middle by the Judge. He granted a “Gag Order,” or a non-release of information by the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office but declined to institute a gag order on the news media.
As a former Drug Enforcement Special Agent with 16 years of criminal background experience as well as assisting in the successful prosecution of enumerable individuals, I didn’t find the first legal maneuver a big surprise. However, I do find the second legal maneuver – the “Gag Order” – incredulous from one position in particular: “On one hand the defendant, by choice or other undisclosed circumstance, seemingly ignores one law – animal cruelty – by allowing animals in her ownership, custody, care and control to die or become emaciated and in the conditions they were found, but on the other hand, the defendant appeals to the law for self preservation.”
Ironies and Strange Twists:
Another irony in this case that hasn’t been revealed is why Rick Brunzell announces to the news media and the world that the horses in question belong to his wife and not him, yet his name is on the AQHA records of Dual Peppy Partners as a co-owner. To date, and to my knowledge, no criminal charge has been filed against him, even though he stated in the same news release that he helps his wife take care of the horses and resides with her on a daily basis.
The other strange twist to this case is that news reports have offered a variety of reasons for the condition the animals were found in. One of the reasons was the lack of availability of funds. However, on the other hand this individual can post a bond, hire a lawyer (unless appointed by the court) and pay the $5,400 per month for the care of the animals at the rehabilitation center while this matter is being adjudicated, which is required to win the animals back.
It seems to me the availability of funds may be looked at as a matter of convenience at this time in this case! Wouldn’t it have been simpler just to use the funds for the care of these unfortunate animals in the first place? My question is, “If a lack of funds were the case, why didn’t the Brunzells reach out to the 501 (c) 3 nonprofit in the area for feed assistance since this organization openly admits donating approximately 300 tons of hay to residents of Colorado to aid in the feeding of horses due to reasons of this type?” Or better yet, instead of allowing horses to become emaciated, why didn’t the Brunzells find another viable solution of resolve, such as selling or donating the horses they supposedly couldn’t afford to feed or take care of!
Another excuse offered up dealt with both Brunzells being in poor health during this time period. Certainly medical records can substantiate or disprove this claim along with an affidavit from a physician. One of the best ones that I find the hardest to swallow is the one stating all of the horses died of colic. Since Brunzell has previously stated they self medicate, medical records to confirm or disprove this assertion should be nonexistent.
However, being a Professional Horseman as well as a criminal investigator, my experience tells me there are other ways to approach the subject, (i.e.) where are the receipts for the medical supplies used to treat the colic, such as Banamine, Rompun, mineral oil as well as the hose, bucket and pump to administer the oil directly into the gut to relieve the colic or impaction. Further, where are the receipts for the syringes and medication to provide inoculations to prevent disease? Where are the receipts and equipment to draw and analyze blood for a Coggin’s test? These are all realistic examples of necessities for proper horse care and should be included on their IRS tax filings.
Another pertinent fact to be explored in this case pertains to the deplorable condition the horses’ hooves were found in. Certainly, if the Brunzells self medicate then perhaps they do their own farrier work as well, so my next question is, “Where are the receipts for the purchase of farrier equipment or the actual implements which are required to perform the necessary farrier work such as: stands, hoof knives, files and nippers?” As horse owners, we all know a healthy hoof goes along with a healthy horse and as the old adage says, “No Hoof, No Horse.” Certainly a proper trimming is considered a vital aspect of proper horse care and ownership with the Brunzells! Again, these receipts should be included on their tax filings!
As a criminal investigator, my most important question as well as the required documentation to substantiate the next question is: “Where are the medical certifications or classes attended to provide the Brunzells with the medical knowledge and expertise to properly care for horses without using a qualified medical person or a qualified farrier. After all, most of us in the horse industry aren’t smart enough or qualified enough to perform these functions without the aid or assistance of a veterinarian or a farrier. That’s why responsible horse owners call them and use them, myself included. For the record, these two individuals are not green horns to the industry but, by self admission, competent horseman ready to state their vast qualifications and professional knowledge to anyone who will listen and ask. Certainly, these two individuals with such knowledge would know how to properly care for a horse!
Final Analysis and Personal Opinions:
My final analysis and personal opinions of this case deals with the manner in which the El Paso Sheriff’s Office has dealt with this ordeal. On Monday morning following the discovery on the previous Friday, the Sheriff’s Office spokesman released a news response stating their mounted division decided the horses were not in immediate danger of dying, even though the photo plastered all over the internet revealed an emaciated Dual Peppy with his ribs and hip bones protruding through his skin which I would have scored about a 1.5 at best, so they were left in the care, custody and control of the Brunzells.
That same day, during the afternoon another news release came out informing the public that a search warrant had been executed, a veterinarian had been summoned and as a result of his findings the animals were being seized and transported to a rehabilitation center. If the proper definition of this type of behavior was sought in the dictionary would, “A Chinese Fire Drill,” be the appropriate choice?
My final question in this personal opinion piece is: “What transpired from morning to afternoon to create such a turn of events? Did public pressure sway their opinion or was it pressure from the right source?” Perhaps one day that question will be answered.
My final opinion in this matter is: “A mounted division law enforcement officer doesn’t have the qualifications to make such an astute decision unless that officer is a licensed and qualified medical practitioner aka veterinarian.” This irrational decision caused a three-day delay for those animals living in this “Hell Hole.” The proper decision would have been to summon a veterinarian on the same day of discovery! However, the actions of the Sheriff’s Office might be rationalized since the Sheriff is reportedly being investigated by the FBI for allegations of impropriety and is MIA in Alaska!
I am told that it was announced at the Oct. 29 hearing that there would be an additional hearing on Dec. 17, 2014, to “adjust court sentencing.”
Dual Peppy when he was found among starving and dead horses.
In all of my years as a law enforcement officer and a drug enforcement special agent, I have seen a lot of cases that defy logic and I’ll just chalk this up as another one of them. For the life of me, I just can’t rationalize or justify this case or the manner in which the horses and lamas were found. However, it seems the right District Attorney is overseeing this one and hopefully “Justice For Dual Peppy” will be the final outcome in this matter, one way or another!
“Until Next Time, Keep ‘Em Between The Bridles!”
Richard E. “Rick” Dennis
Office/Mobile: (985) 630-3500
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