Guest View by Dixie Atkins
Is it about the horses? Absolutely. I love them, and so do thousands of others.
Man y of us became involved when it became obvious that Michelle Knuttila of HiCaliber Horse Rescue had created an entire lifestyle constructed on a foundation of fraud from willing donors, based on injured horses.
I’m definitely not PETA, nor do I claim to be. I do believe that all animals should be treated humanely, euthanized if needed, by someone who knows what they are doing. I can’t bear to think of any animal requiring multiple shots to the head and dying in agony, especially when funds were raised for precisely that purpose–to see a qualified medical professional whom, if necessary, could ensure a peaceful end.S
Something I’ve noticed is that in the posts I’ve seen, not one deals with the crux of the matter, and that is the sheer amount of financial fraud that Michelle Knuttila committed as the founder of HiCaliber Horse “Rescue.”
HiCaliber is a charitable organization legally recognized by the State of California and as such, bound by their laws. I realize that your blog seems to deal with the cult mentality, and I agree that many of Michelle’s remaining followers exhibit the same traits – but for many of us, the cult mentality is merely a baffling side effect of Michelle’s persona but doesn’t affect any of us out there attempting to accomplish the task of forcing her to answer for her crimes.
For those of us at the forefront, however, the fact remains that if monies are raised to support a charitable organization, the law states that the monies must be used for their intended purpose, yet they were instead being used to fund Michelle’s lifestyle– to the detriment of the animals she was claiming to “save.”
For the last two years, Michelle has raised over a MILLION dollars a year by running the long con. Much of that money did not go to helping horses, as she stated – instead, the monies were raised to provide her a multi million dollar property on which to live (which was trashed) a BMW, multiple vacations, as well as weekly cosmetic procedures such as nails and lip fillers, among other things. This would have been legal, had she declared a salary from the rescue – however, she did not but with no other source of income, she continued to use donor funds to maintain that lifestyle. The financials showing the improprieties have been sent into the various agencies involved in this investigation.
Her long con was this:
Purchase injured horses at auction for prices ranging from $250 -$450, plus she raised an additional $650 per horse for what she termed a “responsible rescue” fee. She claimed the responsible fee covered vet visits to ensure the horse was comfortable and treat their injuries, do their hooves, food to feed them for a month, and have their feet done, or to perform euthanasia if necessary. What outraged many was that many of the horses–well over a hundred in the last year alone–were purchased, and taken out and shot immediately, thereby eliminating the need for a months worth of feed, or any of the additional services that were claimed to be covered with that additional $650. By purchasing 5-10 horses a week and raising an average of $5-10,000, this enabled Michelle to continue with her lavish lifestyle despite having no other source of income.
Most of us agree that if an animal is sick, or injured, it may need euthanasia and we would be the first to call a vet when this need occurs. Michelle raised money for that purpose, but instead took the horses out to a spot on her property, thereby saving the need to pay a veterinarian, and with no accountability for the money. Much of our outrage comes from the fact that the peaceful euthanasia for which funds were raised was not completed by a vet but instead the horse was taken out to be shot by someone who missed on occasion and required multiple shots, forcing animals to die in fear and agony. And yet the responsible rescue fee remained unaccounted for. Each week she claimed to have zero money to save horses, and this appears to be true – she even bounced checks that she wrote to pay people.
As I saw from a previous post, her follower claimed that Michelle performed surgeries, which means that once again, money raised for vet bills was not used for its intended purpose. The follower apparently does not realize that in addition to fraud, Michelle’s insistence on performing surgeries is against the law and also forced animals to die in extreme agony because she has absolutely no medical training – yet by raising money for a vet and using it herself, she violated even MORE laws.
What makes me angriest is that this woman led a million dollar lifestyle on the backs of donors, which was illegal in every way, by claiming to be FOR the horses, when in fact she was in it for her BMW, her vacations, purchasing expensive puppies [at $1500 apiece] her cosmetic upgrades, etc., despite having no other income other than that which the rescue brought in.
Her financials have been sent to the appropriate authorities, with various agencies involved, because they showed the pattern of fraud in black and white.
I don’t give a damn about the cult, or anything else. I DO care about driving this woman out of business because she has violated so many of the charitable organization laws they can’t even be counted. By focusing on anything but the true crux of the matter, it is discounting the work of so many of us who seek to bring her to justice, many of whom were threatened, harassed, vilified.
So please don’t do us a disservice by relegating this issue to an “us vs. them” issue, because in doing so it discredits all of the hard work and thousands of hours that many of us have put in to get her brought to the attention of the authorities.
I will sign my name because I am not ashamed of who I am, nor what I–WE–have done.
This photo purportedly of HiCaliber leading a horse to the “killing fields”.
This photo purportedly of HiCaliber truck with a dead horse in truck and a dead horse on ground behind truck.