Danada horse adoption offers under scrutiny

  • The fate of retired Danada Equestrian Center draft horses June, left, and Rosie sparked outrage recently when they were featured in an adoption advertisement at county fairs and horse events.

    The fate of retired Danada Equestrian Center draft horses June, left, and Rosie sparked outrage recently when they were featured in an adoption advertisement at county fairs and horse events. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

Updated 9/18/2013 5:39 PM

DuPage County Forest Preserve commissioners say pull-tab fliers posted at area events promoting the sale and adoption of Danada Equestrian Center horses violates their policy prohibiting such advertising on the Internet.

Commissioners and some volunteers, angered by what some have called an "end around" the district's policy, are demanding the Danada Equestrian Center staff be more diligent regarding efforts to offer retired horses for adoption.


Earlier this year, commissioners added a ban on online advertising to the district's horse adoption policy in response to concerns raised by Danada volunteers.

The volunteers were concerned that advertising on the Internet could attract the attention of so-called "kill buyers." A kill buyer, the volunteers said, is someone who purchases horses to ship them to a slaughterhouse.

Such concerns were raised again Tuesday evening when volunteers alerted commissioners to fliers nailed to several posts at the recent DuPage County and Sandwich fairs.

"It's come to light that the Danada management is now marketing the retired mares Rosie and June for adoption or sale by nailing a flier in public venues such as the Sandwich Fair, DuPage County Fair and at downstate events in Arthur and Arcola," volunteer Jane Muklewicz said.

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"How much different is this than listing them on the Internet?" she asked. "Rather than looking for adopters from the Danada community or someone known to them, they are finding any way to circumvent the mandate of this board. They have no concern over who takes these horses just as long as they get rid of them."

Danada volunteer Sue Wedryk called for the retired 19- and 17-year-old draft horse team to be allowed to finish their lives as part of the Danada herd.

"They have not worked in 10 months and are not conditioned for work. What type of retirement is it for them to be sold to someone who would work them as hard or harder than they were at Danada?" she asked. "And what will that party do with them as they age? Sell them for slaughter? How would we know?"

Commissioners Tim Whelan and Shannon Burns agreed with the concerns and called for a moratorium on adoptions and advertising of adoptions, but the full commission did not act.


"I consider this advertising to be an end around in our policy that we sat here in this meeting and said we don't want these horses advertised on the Internet. This is just low-tech Internet as far as I'm concerned," Whelan said. "This just rankles me because our leadership at Danada has enough sense not to do this kind of thing."

District spokeswoman Sue Olafson said the center is working to better standardize processes.

"The volunteers' concerns are well taken," she said. "But what happened wasn't intentional, nor was it about staff trying to find a loophole in the process; it was about finding ways to communicate the adoption availability."

The district requires anyone hoping to adopt a horse to have the financial means to house, feed and provide medical care for it. Applicants also must go through a lengthy process that includes interviews by district staff members and a three-month trial period.

Mike Palazzetti, deputy director of operations, said he understands the concerns raised by the posted fliers.

"When we do get inquiries, we're going to go through a whole vetting process. The concern is the way they were advertised and we certainly can take that into consideration and not look to people brought in through that means," Palazzetti said. "I have talked to staff in regard to this particular issue and they are to inform me of any future desire to advertise horses. We should have communicated that better at the onset."

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