T O N K A ' S
T A S
K F O R C E
On May 15, 2009, Tonka and his mom, Dingolay (Layla), and Sienna
Rachel (aka Red) arrived at Beauty's Haven. Beauty's Haven paid
$1,000 for Dingolay and Tonka, and $175 for Red. Just a couple of
weeks before this, Animal Services had been to the very location where
these horses were and witnessed their condition; that day, they
euthanized a mare, Brook's Approval, after giving birth to a baby that
did not make it. If you were to see the picture of Brook's
Approval before she was euthanized, just after giving birth to her
stillborn baby, you would probably not be able to get the image out of
your mind -- I haven't been able to.
Three days after arriving at BHFER, despite all medical care, Tonka's
body succumbed to starvation. Starvation is a slow and painful way
to die. Dingolay wasn't far behind him in her condition. She
was touch and go, and she had watched her baby die over several weeks.
What happened to them is inexcusable and definitely not acceptable.
Tonka, Dingolay, Brook's Approval, and her stillborn baby were owned, at
the time, by Mr. Todd Williams and had been in the care and control
of Krystal and Joann Knirsch for approximately one month before we
learned of them. Mr. Williams had purchased Brook's Approval
and Dingolay in January 2009 at the Ocala Breeders Sale, both due to
foal. Red did not belong to Todd Williams; she was owned by the
Knirschs. Based on information found in public records, Dingolay,
Tonka, and Brook's Approval were in the care and control of another
individual by the name of Rachel Yonish for months before being moved
to the Knirschs in April.
Who is to blame in this case? Are they all to blame? Should
they all be implicated for their involvement in this travesty? The
horses didn't wind up in this severe degree of starvation overnight or
even in a period of one month. How many people were aware of how
bad the condition of the horses was and did nothing? We want
to get to the bottom of this neglect and abuse. It is our
hope that everyone allegedly involved in this case will soon be implicated
and charges will be pressed -- justice needs to be served.
Thank you for
taking time to read about Tonka's Task Force. We have
created a special guestbook so you can ask questions, vent,
offer help, or just express your opinion. We look forward
to hearing from you.
identified on this website are mentioned because of their alleged direct
involvement with this case as has been advised by the proper
authorities. In no way are we trying this case on this website;
this is for your own information. Please DO NOT post inflammatory
statements in other forums. If this happens, Beauty's Haven Farm
and Equine Rescue, Inc., will not be held responsible for any other
we approach the next several critical weeks in this deplorable
case, here is a summary of events that we have compiled -- based on
records from the various cases involving the individuals listed-- and a list of
actions that we intend to take to bring justice in this case.
horses have died since March in this case -- three were babies. |
do these horses have in common?
were owned by, or under the care of, Rachel
belonged to Todd Williams.|
died from lack of proper care and starvation.
County Animal Services was aware of them, at least, since March
One baby died
at a property that was leased by Rachel Yonush. Three died
on the property of Krystal Knirsch, who is being charged
for animal neglect in the case of a horse that she owned that
she called "Red" (aka Sienna Rachel). The fifth,
Tonka, died at the hospital.
are no outstanding charges against anyone -- nobody
is being held accountable for the deaths of these five horses.
horses were in Marion County, which encompasses Ocala,
"Horse Capital of the World."|
read the details that follow. These are the facts of the case as
we have been able to compile them.
2007: Todd Williams arrested for dog fighting charges in
Columbia County, FL.
2008: Todd Williams enters a Not Guilty plea.
2009: Todd Williams purchased two Registered
Thoroughbred mares that were in foal at the Ocala Breeders Sale.
One was from Winding Oaks Farm (Dingolay) and the other from Adena
Springs (Brooks Approval). The mares were placed in the care
of Rachel Yonush.
4, 2009: Marion County Animal Services (MCAS) was
called about a mare with a foal -- both were reportedly falling over.
It was reported that you could see every rib in the colt and that he
was stumbling, dizzy looking. These horses were under the care
of Rachel Yonush.
6, 2009: two calls this day.|
First call in the AM: MCAS was called to the same
location as the March 4 complaint by the owner of the property that
was being leased to Rachel Yonush. He stated,
"They always have several animals in poor condition."
Second call at 12:19 PM: The property owner called MCAS
again -- very concerned about a colt that could not stand. He
was lying in the direct sun and could not get up. The foal did
not survive (this is dead horse number one, at least that we are
30, 2009: MCAS was called out again to where Rachel
Yonush was keeping these horses, along with others, due to
27, 2009: Plea agreement signed in court by
Todd Williams on dog fighting charges sentencing set for June 1.2009.
7, 2009: Another complaint was made to MCAS regarding
the horses in Rachel Yonush's care being very thin and
starving. The reports states there were foals on the property.
|April 16, 2009: Rachel Yonush is evicted from the property
she was leasing, and the horses are moved to a location owned by Krystal
and/or Joann Knirsch.
28, 2009: MCAS was called by Krystal Knirsch to
her property because a mare was foaling and the people onsite didn't
know what to do. Animal Compliance Officer (ACO) Stephens
responded. Her report states the mare was down, had delivered
a stillborn foal, and that the mare's leg was tied or caught in the
fence. A veterinarian was called out. We later learned
that the mare was Brooks Approval. The vet checked the foal
and the placenta for intactment and euthanized the mare due to her
condition (these are the second and third horses that died).
Rachel Yonush showed up and advised ACO Stephens that she would
be moving her horses to another location. Todd Williams
was also there on this day and saw the condition of Dingolay and
Tonka. ACO Stephens stated she would be back to check on the
horses in two to three weeks. AC Stephens saw the condition of
Dingolay and Tonka and others on the property, including another
foal, but did not seize the horses. Click
here to see a picture of Brook and her baby, but be warned: it
is graphic. We didn't want to show the picture
but feel it is necessary in order to show how obvious it was that
these horses were not getting proper care and had not, for some
time. The picture was taken of Brook just before she was
euthanized, just after giving birth to her baby. Look
at her -- she did not get that way in only a few weeks!
According to two sources, ACO Stephens had been involved in the
March complaints to MCAS and had seen the horses at that time.
Had Tonka and Dingolay been seized on this day and provided proper
care, it is very possible that Tonka would have survived.
15, 2009 (AM): Theresa called MCAS and left a message about
two mares and a foal at Krystal Knirsch's property being in a very
unhealthy condition and that the baby appeared to be dying.
15, 2009: BHFER purchases Red from Krystal Knirsch and, after
observing a colt that appeared to be dying, demanded that a vet be
called out immediately and stated that BHFER would pay for the vet.
Krystal states that she already had to bury one of Rae's horses (this
makes number four). We later learned that Rae was Rachel
Yonush. Krystal Knirsch speaks with the owner, Todd
Williams, and advises he will have a vet out to examine them.
Later in the day, the vet that responded to Mr. Williams' request
meets Mr. Williams at the Knirsch property. Mr. Williams
advises the vet to euthanize the mare and baby. The vet
suggests surrendering them to Beauty's Haven. At the request
of Mr. Williams, the vet calls Theresa and asks if Beauty's Haven
would take the mare and baby and rehab them and give them back to
Mr. Williams when they are healthy. Theresa would not agree
but did offer to take them and, if Mr. Williams wouldn't surrender
them, BHFER would offer $1,000 for them in an effort to get them to
safehaven as soon as possible. A few minutes later, the vet
called Theresa back and said Mr. Williams would take $1,000 in
exchange for the mare and baby. In less then 30 minutes, Mr.
Williams was paid $1,000, in cash, and he signed the mare and baby
over to BHFER. They were transported to BHFER right away.
18, 2009 (AM): ACO Stephens returned Theresa's
call from three days earlier. Theresa asked her to come to the
rescue to see the condition of the mares and the baby. Shortly
after, Tonka was admitted to the hospital.
18, 2009 (evening): ACO Stephens calls for directions to the
rescue and is advised, by Theresa, that the baby is in critical
condition at the hospital. ACO Stephens goes to the rescue and
takes pictures of Red and Dingolay. She states to Bob
Batchelor that Red and Dingolay were in much worse condition at that
time than when she observed them on April 28, 2009, at the Knirschs.
ACO Stephens goes to the hospital and takes pictures of Dingolay's
baby, Tonka. She states to Theresa that it was evident that
the horses clearly were not being fed since she observed them at
Krystal Knirsch's on April 28, 2009. She stated she was going
to pursue charges against three individuals.
|May 18, 2009 (PM): Despite all
medical care, Tonka died from the effects of starvation at Peterson
& Smith Equine Hospital of Ocala while his mom barely clung to
life at the rescue. Tonka was about four months old and 200 -
300 lbs. underweight when he died. His skin, the largest organ
of the body, was covered in rain rot; and we couldn't brush him, it
hurt him too much. Click
to see what his body looked like -- it was riddled with sores.
|How does anyone
sleep at night knowing their animals are starving?
This baby suffered, and he wasn't alone. Tonka's death
was number FIVE. FIVE dead horses since March -- three
that were just babies! How many more will have to die
before something is done? Have others died that we don't
know about? Are there more horses in possession of
Rachel Yonush, Todd Williams, or Krystal Knirsch that are in
danger? There was at least one more baby and this baby's
mom was also thin. This picture was taken on May 18th,
the day Tonka died. I wonder how this baby is doing
1, 2009: Todd Williams appears in court in Columbia County for
dog fighting charges. A plea agreement that had been
previously worked out was tabled by the judge, and a new court date
was scheduled for August 10, 2009. The judge ordered a
2, 2009: Bench Warrant was issued for Krystal Knirsch in the
case of Red.
2, 2009: Krystal Knirsch was arrested and charged with one
misdemeanor count of Animal Abuse/Abandonment. The next court
date is scheduled for July 29, 2009.
17, 2009: Krystal Knirsch's arraignment was held at Marion
County Courthouse in the case of Red -- she pled Not Guilty.
18, 2009: On
the news last night. Krystal is one of the persons responsible for
what happened to the horses. More to
24, 2009: BHFER met with Jonathon Blevins, Assistant State
Attorney in Marion County. He is handling the case against
Krystal Knirsch concerning Red aka Sienna Rachel.
24, 2009: A meeting was held with MCAS. Jill Lancon
(Director), Christy Jergens, and three others explained to Theresa
and Bernel that, when the package was submitted by MCAS to the judge
for Arrest Warrants, the judge felt there was not enough evidence to
issue arrest warrants for Dingolay, Tonka, and the others. Not
enough evidence? The only warrant for arrest that was issued
was for Krystal Knirsch in the case of Red. We were
dumbfounded how, if evidence was presented, nothing was to be done
in the case of Tonka and Dingolay -- something had to have been
overlooked or just not presented. MCAS advised BHFER to
file the case, and ACO Stephens provided us with an Affidavit of
Complaint (several multiple page forms) to fill out. We have
to wonder exactly what, if anything, was submitted to the state
attorney's office to bring about justice for Tonka and Dingolay.
How could anyone look at these three horses, with Tonka and Dingolay
being the worst, and not do something about it?
30, 2009: Krystal Knirsch entered a written plea of Not Guilty
in the case of Red. A pre-trial conference is scheduled for
10, 2009: As suggested by MCAS on June 24, Bernel prepared a
package to submit to the court to request that Arrest Warrants be
issued in Tonka and Dingolay's case and proceeded to the Marion
County Courthouse. When she tried to go through the process
that had been explained to her by ACO Stephens, it was learned that
she could not do so because she is not an officer of the court.
16, 2009: A meeting was scheduled among Theresa, Bernel, and
the Director of Human Resources of Marion County to be held on
Friday, July 24. We hoped to address all issues, present
facts, exchange information, and get the answers necessary to have
this case filed properly by MCAS, with our assistance.
17, 2009: More upsetting information was learned: Todd
Williams was aware that the health of his mares was declining back
in March, and since. He had been on the property where they
were being cared for by Rachel Yonush. He wasn't ignorant of
the fact that his horses were not properly being fed and cared for.
|July 23, 2009: To
view the latest news about Dingolay and Tonka's case, please visit this
Please leave comments.
|July 23, 2009: Shortly
after 4:00 PM today, Bernel received a call from the office of Drew
Adams, the Director of Human Resources of Marion County, advising that
the meeting for tomorrow has been cancelled -- not rescheduled, but
24, 2009: A meeting is scheduled between BHFER and the
Director of Human Resources, Marion County. Our goal is to
walk out of the meeting knowing that MCAS is going to gather and
present all of the facts about this case to the court, which has
been open since March, and that Arrest Warrants will be issued for
all responsible parties. This has gone on too long -- justice
needs to be served. This case sets an example for how MCAS
looks upon horses in the "Horse Capital of the World."
29, 2009: Krystal Knirsch's pre-trail conference was held
today. She had initially pled "not guilty," but a
"change of plea" is now scheduled for August 4.
10, 2009: Todd Williams is due in court for sentencing in the
dog fighting case in Columbia County.
|September 14th, 2009: The case
against Krystal Knirsch was heard in court today. She was
found guilty and sentenced to one year's probation, 50 hours
community service with Salvation Army, 30 days on the Sheriff's Work
Gang, $2,500.00 fine, and approximately $500.00 in court costs; and
she cannot own or shelter animals for one year, with the exception
of "Choppy," her mother's cat. We are very thankful
that justice was served in Red's (Sienna's) case -- thank you,
Marion County! Now, that precedence has been set, the court
itself has determined that Red was abused; we expect more charges
for the other horses. Red was in bad shape but Dingolay (Layla)
was even worse, and Tonka died. Brook and her baby died.
It's more than apparent that there is a case for the others that
suffered. What do you think?|
It is unclear whether the horse that Krystal Knirsch said she
had to bury on her property was Brook's Approval. Brook and her
baby both died on the property. If the horse Krystal Knirsch was
talking about is Brook, then there are four dead vs. five.