Controversial horse rescue facility in Valley Center closing - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Controversial horse rescue facility in Valley Center closing

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SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) — A local horse rescue facility that has been at the center of controversy is closing.

HiCaliber Horse Rescue in Valley Center announced its run is over in a Facebook post Saturday.

Recently, the facility faced claims of animal abuse and fraud.

"I rescue around 500 horses a year and nobody is considering what's going to happen to them," said Michelle Cochran, the founder of HiCaliber, who is also known by the name Michelle Knuttila.

Cochran wanted to make clear what she says is forcing the nonprofit to shut down:

"The death threats and the harassment and the threats to burn down the ranch," she said. "The stalking. The following. The drones over the property. It's just too much for anybody to bear."

Over the past few months, the rescue has been accused of everything from animal cruelty to fraud.

RELATED: Attorney General’s Office halts HiCaliber’s fundraising, spending for failing to file tax docs

Critics have questioned their euthanasia policies and funding tactics.

But despite ongoing allegations, the organization was cleared in an investigation by the Los Angeles Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals - and has not been charged with anything else.

"We can't survive any longer on the current resources that are coming in," said Cochran. "We've lost too much traction in the midst of the chaos."

One of the nonprofit's most controversial issues involved people being upset with the number of horses being put down.

"We are not opposed to horses being put down that need to be put down," said doctor of veterinary medicine Adrienne Moore. "We are opposed to horses that are healthy being put down."

While Moore has been vocal against the rescue, Cochran said the veterinarian has never been to her property and doesn't have first hand knowledge of how the rescue operates.

Cochran believes the constant accusations are all part of witchhunt from people who simply want her out of the business.

"We don't euthanize healthy animals unless they're absolutely beyond repair or dangerous," said Cochran. "I'm here for the animals. I'm not here for politics. I'm not here to be popular and make people happy. I'm here to answer to them.... and if they're suffering, they're not going to stand here and rot. I won't let it happen."

Cochran says she is now looking to adopt out the 160 horses still in her care. 

She says she plans to keep the rescue open until they all find good homes. 

Local nonprofit news agency inewsource has written 10 stories about the HiCalilber organization since Feb. 28. The stories detailed ongoing investigations by local and state agencies and other controversies surrounding the nonprofit.

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