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No sign of neglect at Englewood home where horse was found dead, city officials say

Leo Beltran said he brought the 28-year-old horse to Chicago from his 15-acre farm in Mendota because it was refusing to eat and needed treatment. He also insisted his Rottweiler was not eating the dead horse’s carcass.

Chicago police and Animal Care and Control are investigating after one horse was found dead and another injured Feb. 15, 2020, at a yard in the 1000 block of West 61st Street in Englewood.
Chicago police and Animal Care and Control are investigating after one horse was found dead and another injured Feb. 15, 2020, at a yard in the 1000 block of West 61st Street in Englewood.
Ald. Raymond Lopez via Facebook

The owner of a horse found dead over the weekend at a home in Englewood on Monday denied an alderman’s allegations that the animals were mistreated — and a statement from the city backs him up.

The incident had started Saturday afternoon, when Chicago Police and Animal Care and Control went to the 1000 block of 61st Street for a “well-being check” on two horses. A caller stated the horses were “not looking good” and “possibly deceased,” according to police.

They found one horse dead and the owner on the scene.

Neighboring Ald. Ray Lopez (15th), an outspoken animal rights activist, took to Twitter to decry the “gruesome scene” he saw: one horse injured, another one dead — and a Rottweiler eating the carcass.

Lopez said the horses were kept with no food, water or shelter. They were “covered in feces” and “left for dead.”

The owner of the horse, Leo Beltran, denied that narrative and accused Lopez of a cruel publicity stunt that only exacerbates a family tragedy.

Late Monday afternoon, Animal Care and Control issued a statement saying the surviving animals “did not present any sign of mistreatment, they were not emaciated, nor were there any signs of poor health,” the statement continued. The owner said “the deceased horse had been to the veterinarian recently and provided records for that visit.”

Beltran was cited for failure to provide updated vaccine records for the surviving horse; he said he would email the department those records.

The dead horse was 28 years old, Beltran said, and was brought to Chicago from his 15-acre farm in Mendota because it was refusing to eat and needed “treatment” by a veterinarian.

Authorities found a dead horse at this house in Englewood on Saturday.
Authorities found a dead horse at this house in Englewood on Saturday.
Jon Seidel/Sun-Times

Tragically, the horse “didn’t make it.” But not because of any neglect, Beltran said. He argued the second horse was brought along “for companionship” and that the Rottweiler was “sleeping” next the carcass — not eating the dead horse, as Lopez claimed.

“I’ve had this horse for many, many, many years. It’s 28 years old. Every animal at one point dies. Just like human beings. How can it be neglect? He got removed properly by proper professional people that I hired — not the city. I did all the expense out of my pocket,” Beltran said.

“If there was some sort of slaughter or something going on with the horse, it would be different. But the horse died natural. He was old. … I feel really bad about it. My daughter is really sad about it. We were not intentionally trying to make him suffer. We were trying to help him out.”

“Raymond Lopez taking pictures of me and my family on my private property — it feels like they’re stalking me and my family. They’re invading my privacy,” he said.

In the 10 years he has lived in Englewood, Beltran acknowledged a history of complaints by neighbors fearful of farm animals he has brought to his home.

“It’s not that I’m doing anything bad. Animal Control comes and visits me. I open the door for them. They see how much food I got for them. They see that the animals are healthy. They’re not starving. There’s no feces around. They’re fine with it. They check and they leave,” he said.

Lopez tells a different story.

“I was there. I saw pictures. I’ve heard his own words. That is neglect through and through,” Lopez said.

“There’s no reasonable explanation why you would bring a sick horse from a farm and hope to find veterinary help for them in the middle of Englewood. These animals were neglected and left to die because of him.

According the Animal Control, six citations were issued last year — four for one horse, two for the dog — for failure to have a license or proof of up-to-date vaccines. The issues have been corrected, according to the department.

Animal rights activist Michelle Pietzke insisted a police officer saw the dog eating the carcass. Pietzke took a cellphone picture of the “raw part” of the horse’s leg, where the dog had been “chewing on the horse.”

According to Lopez, complaints about the two horses and a “malnourished” Rottweiler at the home date to July and “almost every month since.”

But Animal Control called allegations of the dog eating the dead horse “unfounded” and added that the dog at the home was “in good health and is friendly.”

The surviving horse was in good shape except for an old leg wound, and also showed no signs of neglect. It has been removed from the property.

Keeping a horse in Chicago is legal, Animal Control noted, provided you get a license and care for them properly.

Late Monday, a branch of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association wrote a letter to Lopez offering to pick up the surviving horse, transport it to one of its farms, pay for food and veterinary care until a “forever home” can be found.

According to Animal Control, however, by then, the horse already had been moved.

Contributing: Luke Wilusz