Michelle Knuttila, founder of HiCaliber Horse Rescue, poses for a portrait at her Valley Center ranch on March 2, 2018. (Megan Wood/inewsource)

HiCaliber Horse Rescue, a Valley Center nonprofit at the center of an inewsource investigation and multiple government investigations over allegations of fraud, animal abuse and improper veterinary practices, is closing, according to a Facebook post on Saturday.

“I am heartbroken to report, we are shutting down,” wrote Michelle Knuttila, HiCaliber’s founder and president. “It’s getting harder and harder to find the peace amongst the war we now call rescue.”

inewsource has written 10 stories about the organization since Feb. 28. The stories detailed ongoing investigations by local and state agencies; statements from former HiCaliber board members who said they knew nothing about the nonprofit’s financials and that records filed with the government were inaccurate; an alleged outbreak of a highly contagious equine disease at the ranch that was kept under wraps; and Knuttila’s questionable expenditures, including thousands of dollars spent on Weight Watchers, spy technology, late-night fast food and bar tabs and other purchases.

The Attorney General’s Office prohibited HiCaliber from fundraising in March for not filing its 2016 paperwork detailing revenue, expenses and other disclosures required of nonprofits. The office lifted the prohibition earlier this month after HiCaliber filed the paperwork.

Knuttila told inewsource in March she has done nothing wrong while running the organization, though she has not responded to interview requests since.

“The hate has gotten out of hand and I’m not going to stand around watching carnage,” she wrote Saturday on Facebook. “While the war on each other intensifies, the horses continue to lose. I cannot stay in nor support an industry that justifies hurting each other in the name of animal welfare, when the primary focus is no longer the animals. It’s a sham. Bait and switch. The wizard behind the curtain is killing his own people”

inewsource will continue to follow Knuttila’s decision to shutter the horse rescue and what happens to the animals under her care.

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More in the series…

“HiCaliber Horse Rescue back to fundraising after filing financial paperwork”
April 18, 2018

“Fourth HiCaliber Horse Rescue board member never saw financials”
March 28, 2018

“Eyeballs, Del Mar and manure: More on HiCaliber Horse Rescue”
March 22, 2018

“HiCaliber donor funds used for mobile phone spying, Weight Watchers; documents shared with district attorney”
March 15, 2018

“HiCaliber volunteers say disease outbreak at Valley Center ranch not disclosed”
March 8, 2018

“Former board member and veterinarian details problems with finances, medical practices at HiCaliber Horse Rescue”
March 6, 2018

“Former HiCaliber board members distance themselves from horse rescue’s financials”
March 5, 2018

“Attorney General’s Office halts HiCaliber’s fundraising, spending for failing to file tax docs”
March 5, 2018

“Strong reaction to inewsource report on HiCaliber Horse Rescue”
March 3, 2018

“HiCaliber Horse Rescue ensnared in allegations of animal cruelty, fraud”
Feb. 28, 2018


We’ll let you know when big things happen.

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Brad RacinoAssistant Editor and Senior Investigative Reporter

Brad Racino was the assistant editor and senior investigative reporter at inewsource. He's a big fan of transparency, whistleblowers and government agencies forgetting to redact key information from FOIA requests. Brad received his master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri...

Nicole Tyau was an intern at inewsource. To contact inewsource with questions, tips or corrections, email contact@inewsource.org.