[Feb. 4th, 2020] Alert: We need your support. We are the target of a vicious defamation campaign. We have not responded to it so far, because we need to stay focused on our important job of protecting and humanely managing the Salt River wild horses, plus we have a policy of ignoring all negativity. The allegations are being leveled by just a few people without real first hand knowledge about the issues, and they have a level of absurdity that we did not think anyone would be gullible enough to believe. Apparently we were wrong.
After learning yesterday of the latest allegations that we are now apparently stealing horses from the Tonto National Forest and relocating them to Heber, 100 miles away, where wild horses are being shot, we feel we need to inform our supporters and make a public statement. We also need to issue a warning to anyone who is spreading rumors and lies about our organization or its president, without proof and without fact checking their informational sources. This includes all members of a small but vicious Facebook page called “exposing the truth”. The hater page we are talking about was opened and published with the sole intent to mislead in order to damage our organization using sensationalist, dishonest, and outright fabricated stories to gain attention for the founder of the page as some kind of hero. The founder nor its members have any proof of any wrong doing. We, on the other hand, have 4000 screenshots of their libelous claims. Of course, the founder of this page wrote her own proposal that includes taking down fencing along the roads and moving horses into the Sunflower allotment and 4 Peaks area. Obviously, this is quite unrealistic and most definitely not in the best interest of the horses. If you are on this page please “unlike it”.
We are a reputable non-profit organization with over a decade of experience managing the Salt River wild horses. It is well known how hard we fought for their protection and our success is a win-win for the public of Arizona, for the horses, as well as for the authorities. We operate under a contract with the State of Arizona for the humane management and population control of the Salt River wild horses. Any actions we take, are for humane reasons and are in partnership and authorized by the Arizona Department of Agriculture (AZDA). What is difficult, is that our success seems to bring out many jackal-like groups and individuals from both sides, who think they want to do this job.
Our job includes responding 24/7 to horse emergencies like moving horses that are trapped behind fences or in roadways, we respond at all hours to horses suffering or in need of assistance, and we administer our important birth control program that is the only hope for preventing future removals of Salt River wild horses from their habitat.
So we want to let everyone know, that sometimes, you will see our volunteers doing that job; they can be on the side of the road warning traffic when a horse is in the roadway, they can be seen darting wild horses and they can be seen monitoring injured horses or fixing fences or moving horses away from unsafe places. Our volunteers are kind and courteous and wear an identifying t-shirt and safety vest and have logos on their vehicles. Please rest assured that every action we take is authorized by the Arizona Department of Agriculture.(AZDA) Likewise our rescue facility where we give sanctuary to rescued wild horses is inspected by and licensed by the state.
However, lately, whenever we are doing one of those important jobs, we are harassed by this small fringe group of “haters”, who then accuse us of doing all sorts of unlawful things like moving wild horses to places without authorization. And sadly it does not stop there. They even trespass onto our private property where our rescues live and accuse us of “killing and shooting them”. These are serious allegations. The claim that over 100 volunteers could be complicit in the murder and cover up of shooting and killing wild horses is ludicrous and vile, but all they needed was the sound of a gunshot (from hunters) to fabricate this allegation and spread it.
We have publicized and explained every move of Salt River wild horses, explained the need for our feed program, our rescue program, as well as the need for humane euthanasia when a horse is fatally injured and suffering. We have offered to answer every question to the members of this libelous page, to no avail. The false allegations, libel and harassment continue to escalate.
Late yesterday we responded to an emergency of a stallion who was panicked and on the roadway in a dangerous area, where the speed limit is 50 miles an hour and running towards the busy Beeline Hwy where the speed limit is 65 miles an hour. This was a serious emergency so we responded with 20 volunteers, and the AZ Dept. of Agriculture (AZDA) responded, as well as MCSO in order to prevent a terrible disaster. While we were all there working hard to move the stallion as well as the band back towards each other, one of the members of our hate page drove by, saw our vehicles along the road and a post appeared “Looks like another big push of Salt River wild horses could be taking place”. Trudy Bastman, proud owner of this slanderous page full of libel, issued her own personal warning towards SRWHMG and our volunteers earlier in the day, stating that we can and will be charged with a misdemeanor. LOL. It would almost be funny if it wasn’t brought to legislators and politicians as well as supporters who all contacted us yesterday.
These allegations of SRWHMG moving horses to Heber and to Prescott were represented to them as the truth.
We have thousands of screenshots full of these kinds of demonstrably false and slanderous allegations that are meant to interfere with, and undermine our contract with the State to humanely manage the Salt River wild horses.
Members of the page conspire to harass our volunteers as much as possible until they in their own words “drive us crazy”. Members of the page also contact our donors, sponsors, and supporters and encourage them to stop donating. From hoarding wild horses, to conspiring to round them up, to illegally shooting wild horses, to even yelling “go home” at wild horses in the field, it may all seem too far fetched to worry about. However sadly the more something is repeated the more some people actually believe the craziest things and then it becomes serious libel we have no choice but to deal with.
We are posting some of the screenshots to illustrate where you can see that when we were completely heartbroken over the death of our rescued foal, Prince, this libelous page and its members cruelly accused us of shooting him and then asking for donations. We were also accused of having something to do with Lancelot’s death after this well-known stallion was found dead in the forest.
For over a decade we have fought hard to save the Salt River herd. We have accomplished a lot. With over 100 volunteers in the field we are able to guarantee these horses their freedom, safety and well-being. What possible motive could we have to do any of these outrageous things?
We are now forced to take legal action against this group as well as its founder as well as each of the individuals who are routinely leveling the defamation of our organization and trespassing on our private property.
Under Arizona law, it is unlawful to engage in defamation of another’s character and reputation in print. Libel claims have five requisites:
- The statement made against the plaintiff is false.
- The statement was defamatory as described in Godbehere v. Phoenix Newspapers Inc., 162 Ariz. 335, 341 (Ariz. 1989).
- The statement was published to a third party.
- The fault is on the part of the defendant.
- The plaintiff suffered damage as a result of the statement.
We hope we did right in alerting you to this disinformation and we hope that you will stand with us in our defense. Please always ask us directly whenever you hear a rumor. Rumors are being spread for the sole purpose of undermining humane wild horse management and is knowingly or unknowingly promoting the removal of Salt River wild horses. We thank you all very much for your support.