Snohomish Co. horse rescue charity folds amid scandal

SEATTLE -- The head of a horse rescue charity accused of misusing funds has settled her case, but the scandal has left several horses out in the cold and in need of new homes.

In May, Snohomish County's People Helping Horses took in 26 horses confiscated by Animal Control. The charity asked for $100,000 in donations to care for the sick horses.

The group's executive director, Gretchen Salstrom, said the money would help keep the horses from suffering. But what nobody knew at the time was that Salstrom was under investigation by the state's Attorney General's office for allegedly misusing charity money.

"They were raising the money for therapeutic riding programs for children when they terminated that part of the program," said Attorney General Rob McKenna.

The state accused Salstrom of using the money on her own horse breeding and dog breeding business. Now, the state, the charity and Salstrom have settled the case, but there are still some loose ends.

"So, she's not allowed to have a relationship with this charity, but she's not allowed to work for a non profit of any type for the next 10 years," McKenna said.

The entire ordeal has left Susan Moore, who's the last member of the charity, in a tough spot.

"I have days where I go between angry and frustrated and being so sad," Moore said.

Moore joined People Helping Horses to help clean up the mess now that the investigation is over. The charity has found homes for 43 of the horses they were caring for, but the crisis has forced Moore to shut down the organization later this month.

Until then, she's trying to stable and find new homes for the five remaining horses.

"The more often they are moved around, the harder they are with trust issues," she said.