HiCaliber Horse Rescue still hasn’t left Valley Center ranch; founder blames critics
The house on the HiCaliber Horse Rescue property in Valley Center is shown on March 2, 2018. (Brandon Quester/inewsource)

HiCaliber Horse Rescue still hasn’t left Valley Center ranch; founder blames critics

More than a week after its announced move-out date, HiCaliber Horse Rescue has not yet left the Valley Center ranch it rents.

The group’s founder has said the owner wants to sell the property and has asked HiCaliber to move.

For months, the nonprofit has been under investigation for allegations of misusing donor funds, animal abuse and improper veterinary practices. At one point, the California Attorney General’s Office halted HiCaliber’s fundraising for failing to file tax documents required of nonprofits. The office lifted that after the paperwork was filed.

As of Wednesday, inewsource could not confirm the status of any ongoing investigations.

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In a Facebook Live video Tuesday evening, HiCaliber founder Michelle Knuttila drove around the 16-acre ranch where the rescue has operated since 2014 and showed the horses still living there.

“It’s a wake-up call when we walk through a ranch that used to have over 100 of your dreams sitting here happily munching hay, and now there’s about 30,” Knuttila said.

The video also shows empty horse stalls, stables that had been dismantled and supplies that had been packed up. By 5 p.m. Wednesday, the video had raised $390 and generated nearly 400 comments from supporters.

“I can’t believe this is really the end,” Knuttila said on the video. “I worked so hard. I gave everything I had to these horses.”

The rescue announced it was shutting down in April and set a voluntary closing date of June 30, but then it didn’t leave. HiCaliber attorney Sean Jones told the Valley Roadrunner in August the rescue would leave the ranch on Sept. 15, though that wasn’t “set in stone.” Now that date has passed.

Knuttila said in Tuesday’s video the nonprofit had tried to move the horse rescue but hasn’t been able to rent anything. She blamed HiCaliber’s critics for keeping property owners from renting to the group.

“Unfortunately our critics who worked hard to shut us down have called and reached out to every property manager and Realtor company that they could get their hands on and sent photos of us and said … don’t rent to these people. They’re horrible. They’ll destroy your place,” Knuttila said.

Neither Knuttila nor Jones responded Wednesday to inewsource’s requests for comment. Attempts to reach the owner of the Valley Center ranch were unsuccessful.

Timeline:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“HiCaliber Horse Rescue shutting down amid investigations”
April 21, 2018

“HiCaliber horses not welcome at parade over fears they’ll infect other animals”
May 22, 2018

“HiCaliber Horse Rescue set to close Saturday as investigations of nonprofit continue”
June 26, 2018

“Critics accuse HiCaliber of questionable fundraising campaign built around a dead horse”
July 13, 2018

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About Nicole Tyau:

Nicole Tyau is an intern at inewsource. To contact her with tips, suggestions or corrections, please email nicoletyau [at] inewsource [dot] org.