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HSUS Sued for Defamation, Malicious Prosecution, Conspiracy, and Abuse of Process

Several years ago we wrote about the case of Denisa Malott, an Arkansas woman who had her horses seized by HSUS for allegedly not caring for them—only to find that the horses were, after the seizure, apparently dropped off in a field and left without adequate food and water, despite HSUS's promise that the animals would be taken to a care facility.

Previously, Malott had filed a complaint with the FBI asking for an investigation under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. And now the other shoe has dropped: Malott has filed a lawsuit. Read it here.

The suit, filed in February in the Circuit Court of Stone County, Arkansas, seeks unspecified damages for defamation, malicious prosecution, abuse of process, intentional infliction of emotional distress, trespass to real property, trespass to chattels, and conspiracy. The defendants are the Humane Society of the United States, HSUS's state legislative director Desiree Bender, the Humane Society of Missouri, and three other individuals.

The seizure occurred in November 2009, after which Malott was charged with 25 felony counts of animal cruelty. Those charges were later dropped to misdemeanors—and then those charges were completely dropped altogether, in November 2011. In short, Malott had to sit under the looming threat of criminal prosecution for two years after the seizure that was conducted by HSUS and others.

Following the seizure, HSUS put out a press release in which HSUS state director Desiree Bender alleged the horses were living in “deplorable conditions” and HSUS claimed that the “horses are being taken to The Rescue Wranglers' pasture in White Hall, Ark., where they will receive the attention they deserve.”

But Malott alleges that the attention the horses got was far from what they deserved.

Instead of going to The Rescue Wranglers' pasture three hours away, the horses were found close to the seizure site. What's more, they allegedly were found to be without adequate food and water—essentially dropped off in a pasture, found the sound of it.

Malott wasn't allowed to feed her horses because of the pending criminal charges, but she eventually won physical custody of the animals and was able to feed them. TheJune/July 2010 edition of MareConnection has more details about the seizure and subsequent events.

In short, Malott's lawsuit asserts that the allegations of HSUS and others were false, which damaged her reputation and business. She's essentially saying: “Prove it.” So we'll see what HSUS has got to back up its actions. But if her horses were seized under false pretenses or HSUS made defamatory statements, then the organization could be pretty deep in manure.

Two other HSUS “raids” have spurred lawsuits: One in South Dakota and one in Hawaii. The South Dakota case is still active and is slowly progressing. HSUS is also facing a federal lawsuit filed under anti-racketeering statutes. As always, we'll keep an eye on this case and keep you posted as to any developments.

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