Valley Center horse rescue organization accused of cruelty, frau - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Valley Center horse rescue organization accused of cruelty, fraud

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SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) – Hi-Caliber Horse Rescue in Valley Center has taken and rehabilitated hundreds of animals, but News 8’s media partner iNewsource has uncovered disturbing accusations of healthy horses being unnecessarily put down.

The head of Hi-Caliber Horse Rescue previously worked for the county’s animal services, but because of that conflict of interest, San Diego authorities asked the Los Angeles Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to do an investigation.

That investigation found nothing wrong with Hi-Caliber, but that did not stop a growing chorus of critics who believe the horse rescue should be shut down.

The tough talking leader, Michelle Knutilla, however, remained adamant that she is not going anywhere.

The Valley Center horse rescue billed itself as “the nation’s most active horse rescue.” Last year, it rescued 463 horses and rehabilitated hundreds of them which were then either placed with adoptive families or privately purchased.

Hi-Caliber recently came under fire for alleged animal cruelty – especially when it comes to euthanizing horses.

Last year, 81 of the rescued horses were euthanized. Twenty-eight of which were compassion pulls – horses already in grave and or critical condition.

Dr. Adrienne Moore is a veterinarian in Fallbrook and one of Knutilla’s most vocal critics. “We are not opposed to horses being put down that need to be put down. We are opposed to horses that are healthy being put down.”

Dr. Moore did concede that some horses at Hi-Caliber Horse Rescue do receive good care. “But others get shot without a vet even seeing them. That is all her discretion.”

“There is no animal cruelty here and this is all a witch hunt. Differently does not mean wrong,” Knutilla.

Additionally, Knutilla said that a veterinarian will determine if a horse needs to be put down. She euthanizes them herself using a 22-caliber rifle – which is legal in California and considered humane by the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

“A gun shot well placed is super humane – time and time again,” she said.

Knutilla is also facing allegations of financial fraud which she vehemently denied.

Hi-Caliber’s leader also said since her organization has come under attack, the amount of donations it receives has dropped precipitously – which means fewer resources to be able to rescue horses.

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