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Posted on Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Saved from slaughter: Horses find sanctuary on Ann Arbor lawyer's farm

By Cindy Heflin

A brown horse stands in his stall, spine protruding sharply along his back, an obvious sign of malnutrition. Nearby, a mare walks about gingerly, still unaccustomed to hooves recently trimmed after months of neglect. Her friendly black and white foal noses a visitor, globs of mud and manure caked in his coat.

They are three of 18 neglected horses seized from a Salem Township boarding facility last week. All 18 are now recovering at the Starry Skies Equine Rescue and Sanctuary in Scio Township.

They’ve joined the more than 50 rescued horses already at the facility, run by Tricia Terry. Besides horses of all ages and sizes, Terry, a partner in the Ann Arbor law firm Marrs and Terry, has a few rescued goats and donkeys on the farm, as well as dogs, cats, chickens and a pair of potbellied pigs.

“When I do things I like to do them in a big way,” she said Tuesday, standing outside the fenced-in pasture holding several of the horses removed from the boarding facility.

That’s why she finds herself today with more than 70 rescued animals, just two years after starting her efforts to save unwanted horses from slaughter. She participates in the daily care of the animals on top of working about 80 hours a week as a lawyer and serving as mom to two stepchildren and four adopted children.

Terry, who’s always had a love for horses, started out a couple of years ago acquiring a few rescued animals she planned to keep at her family’s farm, where she grew up and now lives with her husband and children. But as she began to learn about what happens to horses no longer wanted by their owners, she felt she needed to do more. That feeling was inspired at least in part by worries about what may have happened to horses she had owned in the past.

How to help

  • To volunteer at Starry Skies, you can send an e-mail to the facility.
  • You can donate via PayPal on the facility's website or visit its Facebook page for more information.
“Part of it may be guilt,” she said. “I really didn’t realize horses were at risk.”

She said buyers aren’t always forthcoming with sellers about what will happen to the animals after they’re sold. Many horses sold at auction end up at a slaughterhouse, Terry said.

Finding this out left her wondering what happened to Pal, a palomino horse from her childhood, as well as a Shetland pony she once owned.

Though slaughter of horses was stopped in the United States by the passage of a bill in 2006 that ended funding for inspections, a new bill recently signed by President Obama has lifted the ban.

A Government Accountability Office study released in June found that slaughter of American horses didn't stop because of the ban, but shifted to Mexico and Canada, according to reports. The meat of the animals is sent to Europe and Asia.

"From 2006 through 2010, U.S. horse exports for slaughter increased by 148 and 660 percent to Canada and Mexico, respectively," the GAO report stated. "As a result, nearly the same number of U.S. horses was transported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter in 2010 - nearly 138,000 - as was slaughtered before domestic slaughter ceased."

Terry wants to save as many animals as possible from that fate. She operated a private sanctuary for two years, paying all the costs herself, but recently converted her organization to a non-profit corporation. The switch allows her to accept donations for the animals’ care, which costs about $100,000 annually.

Fifty is the ideal number of horses at her facility, Terry said, but she could accommodate about 90 between her own property and her mother's next door.

Terry recently invested about $100,000 to build a new barn with space for an indoor arena. As the operator of one of at least a dozen horse rescues in Michigan, she now hopes to work with 4-H and horse clubs, providing them with volunteer and education opportunities and also connecting people looking to acquire a horse with rescued animals appropriate for adoption.

She said horse owners can easily spend thousands of dollars a year on one animal. “I’d rather spend thousands on dozens of horses.” At the farm, the horses get room to roam, plenty of food and water, veterinary and farrier care and access to shelter. The addition of the 18 horses from Salem Township has stretched her resources a bit thinner than usual, and she is taking donations and volunteer help. Calls have been coming in as people have learned that she is sheltering the recently rescued animals. She also welcomes visitors to the facility at 8133 W Liberty Road at just about any reasonable hour.

Terry praised the Humane Society of Huron Valley for stepping in and seizing the horses boarded in Salem Township before their conditions had deteriorated too far. She said these animals, though neglected, were far healthier than some she has nursed back to health. She pointed to a horse named Sovran as an example. She said he came in 400 pounds underweight. Now, he’s the picture of health.

The Humane Society has said several owners of horses rescued from the Salem Township boarding facility will likely be prosecuted. Owners rent space at the facility and are responsible for making sure their horses get proper care, said Matt Schaecher, Humane Society cruelty investigator.

Terry said people who adopt horses from her facility have to sign a contract granting her right of first refusal if they decide to get rid of their horse and they have to agree never to sell it at auction.

As she spoke, a few of the recently rescued animals galloped playfully across the field. “I think they’re feeling pretty good,” she said.

Tricia Terry talks about her reasons for creating the nonprofit Starry Skies horse rescue facility in the video below:



Sun, Dec 18, 2011 : 2:26 p.m.

Loving and caring for horses (including one that was rescued 11 years ago) this is simply a very sad story with a loving end. I only wish we could read about a group of elected officials found living in sqaler and being neglected thus there would be balence in the universe.


Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 12:52 a.m.

I believe I can be of some help in re-training some of these horses. I am a life-long equestrian and horse owner, and I would, of course volunteer. Just ask Lorrie Shaw of She can tell you how to reach me.


Sun, Dec 18, 2011 : midnight

Thank you so much, justcurious! Have a Merry Christmas!


Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 1:12 a.m.

Julieswhimsies, here is their email address, or you can go to the website I posted above for more information. I know they could use some good horse people.


Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 8:56 p.m.

<a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> I spent some time out there this afternoon seeing how I can be of help. I met a lot of horses, a couple of mini-potbelly pigs and some really good people. Almost everyone is a volunteer and is happy to help out. They have a really nice facility and are able to keep the horses who are ailing the most in close contact. I filled a couple of water tubs, and did some raking and comforting. I'll be back out there tomorrow. I know they can use all the help they can get, and if anyone has some time or can donate through Paypal, or donate other items, they sure could use it. This weekend, eight more rescue horses will be arriving from another case. Please consider helping them out.

Pooh Bear

Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 8:08 p.m.

I totally understand my daughter has 3 horses and is a full time student. People ask why does she have 3 because she loves them and they lover her. Thanks for being a the kind of person. It REALLY nice to an attorney with a heart I have seen to many who have &quot;NO&quot; heart money grabbing jerks. God Bless you.


Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 5:52 p.m.

Sending blessings your way, Terry. Thank you for standing up and doing what needed to be done. I love you for that.


Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 5:46 p.m.

ASVIN OR ASHWIN, THE HORSE IN INDIAN TRADITION : Great story. Pleased to read about the rescue effort that is associated with feelings or thoughts of animal compassion. Thanks to Terry for taking the initiative to provide shelter and care for these neglected animals. In Indian Tradition, horses and cattle play a central role. For reasons that I have not fully understood, the Vedic demigods known as ASVINS represent horses and they have mystical healing powers. Horses have some magical power to uplift humans and provide healing of mental injuries and may also help in transporting people with physical injuries such those injured in the battlefield. In the Vedic ritual known as ASVAMEDHA YAGNA, horse plays a central role and many Indian Kings in the past had performed this Vedic ritual to enhance their power and fame. In more recent times, people of India have celebrated this ritual to bring benefit to humanity. It involves the worship of horse and recognizing that it has the same consciousness or CHETANA that is shared by God, demigods, man, and other living entities. We need to stop this export of horses for purposes of slaughter. Just yesterday, I saw the review of the great movie, 'WAR HORSE'; we need to appreciate the role of horse in the betterment of human society.


Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 4:29 p.m.

I just printed off a list of foods that horses can safely eat, maybe contact Terri to see if she takes such &quot;unwanted&quot; food. I also know that there is a local rescue for pigs/bunnies, it was called Pighoppers but they changed their name to something like Bunny Rescue? SAFE ~ Apples ~ Apricots ~ Bananas ~ Beets ~ Blackberries ~ Blueberries ~ Carrots ~ Celery ~ Cherries ~ Coconut ~ Corn ~ Dates ~ Figs ~ Grapes ~ Grapefruit ~ Horseradish ~ Lettuce ~ Mangoes ~ Oranges ~ Peaches ~ Pears ~ Pineapple ~ Plums ~ Pumpkin ~ Raisins ~ Rutabagas ~ Squash ~ Strawberries ~ Sweet Potatoes ~ Turnips ~ Watermelon (both rind and pulp) UNSAFE ~ Avocado ~ Onions ~ Potatoes ~ Persimmons ~ Rhubarb ~ Tomatoes ~ Any other members of the nightshade family which includes peppers ~ Broccoli or Cauliflower (may cause gas, which in turn may cause gas colic)


Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 2:54 a.m.

Onions and tomatoes are suppose to be really bad for dogs too. I wonder if it is a fruit that really should be abandoned.


Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 4:16 p.m.

will they take donations of &quot;horse&quot; apples/apples? what about other produce, I know some produce that is not so pretty for people to buy farmers like for their animals, what sort of produce would they accept?


Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 3:50 p.m.

glad they're in good hands


Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 3:45 p.m.

We also need to thank the people who drove by that facility and saw that the horses were abandoned. They are the ones who brought it to the attention of the HSHV. They are the nameless heroes in this.


Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 3:34 p.m.

Need I remind everyone here that the Humane Society of Washtenaw County helped and intervened? Now the county wants to shut them out of funding? Uh huh. I guess some board members need a refresher course and a visit to this farm to see why we need to keep the HS open. Great job on the rescue. We have a rescued dog and find the rescuers also made us sign a waiver to first refusal as well. We won't give her up until it is time for her to go home.


Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 3:07 p.m.

Tricia Terry, you are one amazing human being. My heart was breaking when I read that the horses might remain at that so-called boarding facility. I will be contacting you to see how I can help you out. I really hope that you will get a great response from people able to volunteer some time or money or donated food and other items. I hope that people are becoming educated about what it takes to raise and maintain a horse. As one previous commenter said, don't just buy a horse for the few years the child will be involved with it. Think of it's future. And Cindy, thanks for following up bringing this to our attention.


Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 1:46 p.m.

God Bless you Tricia.

Silly Sally

Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 1:45 p.m.

Wow, what a financial burden or cost. I wonder if any food gatherers for horses amongst local farmers will be next to donate grain, hay, or alfalfa. That is short term. What is the long term solution? One person can't support 100 horses.


Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 1:32 p.m.

God bless you!


Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 1:11 p.m.

Tricia Terry way to go. you get a big at-a-girl. this also shows how people love animals. the county is going to cut the budget to the Humane Society of Huron Valley. what a joke we are turning out to be. cut the cost of saving animals so people can enjoy then. teaches kids responsibility etc. yet we still have $1.5 mil in the art bank with another $300,000 to go in 2012. some of it comes from street repairs. i really think we should just vote all of them out and start fresh. i think they are getting to comfortable and brain dead.


Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 12:56 p.m.

Thank you, it's good to know about about such kind people as Terry.

Murphy's dad

Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 11:41 a.m.

You're a fabulous human being Tricia Terry, and a pefect example of the wonderful things happening here in Washtenaw County with the Humane Society of Huron Valley and the dedicated volunteers and organizations that partner with them for animal welfare. How ironic that this is happening at the same time our county wants to reduce animal control services. Note that the cruelty investigation that took place with the Humane Society of Huron Valley is provided to our county at no cost to the taxpayer, as an &quot;added value&quot; to the current animal control contract. I wonder, if this had happened with state mandated animal cruelty investigations put back into the hands of our county, instead of HSHV, if the ending would have been as happy. Again, good work Tricia Terry, I'll never tell a lawyer joke again.


Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 11:36 a.m.

This is a wonderful thing to do, thank you Terry! The world needs more people like this. How about an address to send donations to?

Cindy Heflin

Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 12:46 p.m.

The address of Starry Skies is 8133 W Liberty Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48103. There's a link for making donations via PayPal on Starry Skies' website, <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>