Ulster Park man wants $50 mil­lion over seized horses

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - STATE NEWS - By Verena Dobnik

Tod “Doc” Mish­ler spent years ram­bling across the coun­try on horse­back in a white cow­boy hat, stay­ing with strangers and telling cu­ri­ous re­porters that he was on a mis­sion to raise aware­ness about child hunger.

Now he has a new mis­sion: Try­ing to get his two horses back after of­fi­cials in New York City ac­cused him of ne­glect­ing the an­i­mals.

The 80-year-old, Bi­ble­quot­ing horse­man re­cently filed a le­gal claim de­mand­ing $50 mil­lion from the city for the horses, which were seized in June after Mish­ler rode one across the Outer­bridge Cross­ing while pulling along the sec­ond one. The bridge con­nects Staten Is­land to New Jersey.

Mish­ler was ini­tially given tick­ets for block­ing traf­fic and tres­pass­ing, but after vet­eri­nar­i­ans from the Amer­i­can So­ci­ety for the Pre­ven­tion of Cru­elty to An­i­mals ex­am­ined the horses, he was ar­rested and charged with two counts of an­i­mal cru­elty. The vet­eri­nar­i­ans said the horses were mal­nour­ished, de­hy­drated and had open sad­dle sores.

The case is still pend­ing, but Mish­ler, cur­rently stay­ing at a ranch near Rich­mond, Vir­ginia, isn’t wait­ing for the crim­i­nal case to wrap up. He in­sists the an­i­mals were fine and he’s done noth­ing wrong.

“My horses have been il­le­gally seized,” he said.

Mish­ler says his eques­trian ad­ven­tures started in 2002 in Choteau, Mon­tana, after he was di­ag­nosed with colon can­cer and sur­vived. Fac­ing pos­si­ble death in­spired him to launch a new, more spir­i­tual life, he said.

Mish­ler said he sold all his pos­ses­sions and set out for what he calls the “bi­b­li­cal wilder­ness.” He likens his own trav­els to the wan­der­ings of Je­sus. Along the way, peo­ple have pro­vided food and shel­ter for him and his horses, plus ac­cess to email and Face­book.

Last year in Ten­nessee, Mish­ler suf­fered a heart at­tack. A fam­ily took him in while he re­cov­ered.

In California, where he rode across the Golden Gate Bridge three years ago, a woman with more than 40 horses hosted him, dub­bing him “The Mes­sen­ger from Mon­tana.”

“I never know where I’m go­ing to get my next meal, but each day is a mir­a­cle,” says Mish­ler, who also has un­der­gone heart and hip re­place­ment surgery, and suf­fered a bro­ken pelvis.

For all his sup­port­ers — about 5,000 on his Face­book page — he has fer­vent de­trac­tors.

Mem­bers of a Face­book group called “Stop Doc Mish­ler” de­scribe him as a home­less man who has for years abused the an­i­mals that took him around and must be stopped from rid­ing.

The group in­cludes sev­eral fel­low horse own­ers who had got­ten to know Mish­ler in his trav­els and put him up for a time, only to sub­se­quently sever ties over con­cerns about whether he was car­ing for his an­i­mals prop­erly.

In 2011, in Madi­son, Wis­con­sin, he was charged with an­i­mal ne­glect when his horses ap­peared de­hy­drated and un­der­fed. The charges were even­tu­ally dropped after he agreed to care for the an­i­mals.

He is due back in New York on Jan. 9 for an­other court ap­pear­ance in his new ne­glect case.

In the meantime, his horses have been cared for by the ASPCA. Mish­ler said he de­cided to file a le­gal claim with the city after meet­ing his at­tor­ney, Richard Luth­mann, by chance last sum­mer at a diner near the Staten Is­land court­house. The at­tor­ney took on Mish­ler’s cases pro bono. The no­tice of claim, the first step in su­ing, also names the lo­cal dis­trict at­tor­ney, city po­lice and the parks de­part­ment.

Mish­ler said peo­ple sim­ply don’t get his mis­sion.

“My jour­ney is to get peo­ple to un­der­stand that there are hun­gry chil­dren in the world, and we have the money to feed ev­ery starv­ing child,” he told The As­so­ci­ated Press, speak­ing by phone.

If he ul­ti­mately gets back on the trail, he may have to per­suade a judge first that he can feed his own horses.

AN­THONY DEPRIMO — STATEN IS­LAND AD­VANCE VIA AP

In this photo, horses be­long­ing to Tod “Doc” Mish­ler are pic­tured near Clay Pit State Park in the Staten Is­land bor­ough of New York. The 80-year-old cow­boy, who was ar­rested in June, 2016 on an­i­mal cru­elty charges after in­ves­ti­ga­tors con­cluded his horses were mal­nour­ished, is su­ing the city for the re­turn of his horses.

SHANE DIMAIO — STATEN IS­LAND AD­VANCE VIA AP

In this photo, Tod “Doc” Mish­ler, seeks the re­turn of his horses in the Ocean Breeze sec­tion of the Staten Is­land bor­ough of New York. The 80-year-old cow­boy, who was ar­rested in June, 2016 on an­i­mal cru­elty charges after in­ves­ti­ga­tors con­cluded his horses were mal­nour­ished, is su­ing the city for the re­turn of his horses.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.