Aug. 4, 2004 If you're sitting on the stool at your favorite St. John watering hole on Sunday, don't think you've had one too many when you see a horse come by. It's the members of the V.I. Community Cooperative Thoroughbred Retirement Effort with a friend on a late afternoon bar-to-bar fundraising venture.
Upset about inhumane treatment of some horses, Lynn Utech, Becky Petri and Kate Johnson are raising funds to send mistreated horses on to greener pastures at the Marion Country Correctional Institute in Lowell, Fla. They will be used in a prisoner rehabilitation program.
"It costs $2,700 to ship each horse," Utech said.
She said the organization expects to ship three horses on Aug. 18.
VICCTREE connected with the prison through the efforts of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation in Kentucky.
Utech said that St. John joined the original St. Thomas efforts when someone discovered a former racehorse named Vin Time running down Centerline Road several weeks ago.
VICCTREE got its start about two months ago when the horse Fergus needed rescuing. Members found the horse tied up near Hometown gas station in St. Thomas. The ropes had dug into his legs so deep the bone was visible.
The owner claimed the horse after Agriculture Department intervention, but a few weeks later, Fergus was spotted roaming in Smith Bay. The horse was starving. A Caret Bay resident adopted him, but someone who apparently didn't want a horse in the neighborhood set him free. She found Fergus at the abattoir, and subsequently located a safe spot for him at a riding club.
However, VICCTREE members can't find places for all the horses that need new homes, which is why they're now working with the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation.
One of the horses headed for Florida was injured racing in St. Thomas. The owner had unsuccessfully tried to sell it.
"A race horse deserves a second life," Utech said.
Utech said that although animal welfare agencies across the territory have done the best they could in dealing with horses, they just aren't equipped to find new homes for large animals.
She said the organization needs a place to hold horses while they're waiting for shipment off island.
If you can help with land or funding, call Utech at 998-0331.
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