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December 15, 2009
Topeka Animal Advocate Leads UAN's Horse Sheltering Effort in Nashville

Owner of local doggie day care and founder of food pantry and crisis sheltering service for pets travels to Nashville with United Animal Nations to help horses rescued from “worst case of neglect” she’d ever seen

TOPEKA,KS (December 15, 2009) – Julie Castaneda is well known around Topeka as the co-owner of Dog Day Afternoon Doggie Dude Ranch and founder of the Capital Area Animal Response Team, which provides crisis relief for animals and pet owners. But earlier this month Castaneda took her compassion and animal-handling expertise on the road to care for 84 starving horses in Tennessee as a volunteer with California-based United Animal Nations (UAN).

United Animal Nations volunteer Julie Castaneda calms a shy horse so she can have her overgrown hooves trimmed. The horse was one of 84 rescued from near starvation in Cannon County, Tennessee on November 24.

Castaneda spent ten days in Nashville, caring for the horses at an emergency shelter where they were brought after being seized from private property in CannonCounty on November 24. The horses were found in horrible condition: They were extremely emaciated and suffering from a variety of medical ailments including overgrown, infected hooves and parasite infestation. Some of the horses were so weak they would lie down and be unable to get back up without six or more people assisting them.

“These horses were starved to the point of hurting … there was no life in them,” Castaneda said. “I’ve worked in law enforcement and as an animal control officer, but I’d never seen neglect like this. It is beyond me how they hung on so long.”

After a few days in the emergency shelter, the horses began to improve physically and emotionally, Castaneda said. “When I first walked into the barn it was really quiet, but when I came back the next day, the horses would nicker and talk, demanding that I hurry with their food,” she explained. “Even after all they had been through, they were willing to trust us.”

Castenada acted as “barn manager” in Nashville  and oversaw a team of United Animal Nations volunteers from around the country as well as local residents who showed up to help. According to UAN Emergency Services Manager Janell Matthies, Castenada’s years of animal-handling and volunteer management experience made her invaluable to the operation.

“Julie’s calm and ordered leadership enabled all of the volunteers to give the horses the immediate care and attention they needed to heal their physical and emotional scars,” Matthies said. “She is a key part of the United Animal Nations volunteer team.”

Castenada and her husband, Phil, operate Dog Day Afternoon Doggie Dude Ranch and the Capital Area Animal Response Team (CAART), a nonprofit that provides a pet food pantry and short-term animal sheltering for families in crisis and facilitates emergency sheltering and response in the Topeka area during natural or man-made disasters that affect animals. In the last year, CAART has given away more than 50,000 pounds of pet food to struggling families, provided crisis sheltering to nearly 100 animals, and secured a federal grant to purchase two disaster relief trailers for animals. 

United Animal Nations has more than 2,600 volunteers in the United States  and Canada who are specially trained to care for animals after they are rescued from cruelty situations or displaced by natural disasters. In Nashville, UAN supported The Humane Society of the United States and the Cannon County Sherriff’s Department, which partnered to rescue the horses. Local law enforcement was alerted to the situation by citizens concerned for the health of the horses. The horses are being transferred to established equine rescue organizations for further rehabilitation, foster care and adoption.

Founded in 1987, United Animal Nations (UAN) focuses on bringing animals out of crisis and strengthening the bond between people and animals through a variety of programs, including emergency sheltering, disaster relief services, financial assistance and education. Learn more at

MEDIA CONTACT: Alexis Raymond, (916) 429-2457


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