Rescue horses in Albemarle allowed to stay

Rescue horses' fate in jeopardy after amendment of ordinance

ALBEMARLE, N.C. — The city of Albemarle recently changed how much land an owner can have per horse.

Therapy horses at Creative Counseling and Learning Solutions off Main Street in Albemarle were in jeopardy.

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The horses helped heal trauma victims, officials with the organization said.

The FBI, victims' advocates and local doctors from around our area refer victims to Dr. Laura Harbeson.

"I was a child rape victim," said Rebekkaah Randall, who said the horses helped change her life. "I wouldn't have been able to open up to anybody."

She is a graduate of the program.

"I'm doing awesome. I got married. We bought a house," she said.

Another teen who was trafficked said the horses calm her.

"Without them, I would feel lost. I would feel like I lost a part of myself again," she said.

When Harbeson moved to Albemarle, the city said her land was sufficient for her two rescue horses. Recently, city officials amended the ordinance to require two acres per horse, which means that she'd have to get rid of the horses.

Harbeson wanted to appeal the ordinance.

The City Council sought advice from the UNC School of Government for its opinion.

Harbeson said her facility and the horses are now gandfathered into the new ordinance.

"I feel the weight of the world is on my shoulders to make this right," she said before the city made its decision to let the horses stay.

Shaunna Burns daughter has complex PTSD from major trauma.

"The horses make her feel like she has worth," she said.

Burns said she has tried everything, but this type of therapy is what finally helps her daughter find happiness again.

"There's nowhere else that she can go and get the care she gets here in the city of Charlotte," Burns said.

A resident in the community told Channel Nine the horses are a nuisance because they got out once, in April and said in certain wind conditions, neighbors can smell manure.

"Who wants to be that person that wants to take therapy away from kids who need it?" Burns said.

She drives two hours a day for her daughter to get this therapy because it's such a rare therapy. If the horses go, she said she'll have to move out of state.

Harbeson said because the horses are rescue horses, and they were severely abused before she got them.

She now is trying to find a rescue that could take them in. She said she's been calling rescues, but many are concerned about the expenses related to their care. She's worried they'll have to be put down. "I'm having to protect not only the horses but protect all of the clients that work with the horses," Harbeson said. She will speak before council Tuesday in hopes they'll appeal their decision. Channel 9 spoke to the mayor, who said council members are open to hearing from the community.