Washington horse rescue ordered to undergo organizational and financial changes

Washington State Attorney General's Office charged executive director Gretchen Salstrom with the misuse of charitable donations.
Credits:   People Helping Horses Facebook


7d83f189baf900824776a8b80ee010c2An Arlington based horse rescue, People Helping Horses will be required to undergo major organizational financial changes or face $50,000 in penalties. On Friday, the Washington State Attorney General’s Office reached a settlement agreement over the misuse of charitable funds.

The organization was charged with misleading and deceptive business practices and violating the Charitable Solicitations Act.

Executive director of People Helping Horses, Gretchen Salstrom was charged with using money intended for the horse rescue for her own personal use. Authorities cited Salstrom had used public funding for her own horse, her dog breeding business, and travel and entertainment expenses that had nothing to do with the organization. Salstrom claimed funds were being channeled to a therapeutic riding programs for children with disabilities, and that the travel expenses were being used for checking on horses after they were adopted.

The alleged therapeutic riding program was not in existence, and Salstrom failed to prove that credit and debit card expenses had anything to do with the horse rescue business.

A 2011 complaint initiated the investigation.

As part of the settlement agreement, Salstrom is prohibited from heading any nonprofit organization for the next ten years, has been ordered to pay back $5,000 in attorney fees, and will no longer be allowed to participate in any of the organization’s programs.

People Helping Horses faces up to $50,000 in penalties, but the State Attorney General’s Office will suspend the fine if the organization agrees to keeping donations in separate accounts, using the donations for the correct program, agreeing to financial audits by a certified public accountant every three years, and banning Salstrom from all activities.

Read more about this settlement from the Attorney General’s Office by clicking here.

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AUTHOR: Jerry Finch
  • susan rudnicki

    This story of People Helping Horses work is disturbing! Until very recently, I was giving $25 a month. Do you all know the fate of the horses at that rescue? I would be very concerned….

    December 18, 2012
  • Marcia

    I have given some money in the past but changed to other horse sanctuaries. Now I am really glad I did!! That is dispicable–asking for help for seriously abused and sick horses and then spending the money on herself. Unfortunately, people reading about this may be afraid to donate to worthy rescues just in case they are not honest, and Ms. Salstrom’s crime will hurt other horses. I hope she is out of the “charitable” domain.

    December 20, 2012
  • Judy Lane

    This just makes me sick. People giving because it is the right this to do and then organizations are not what they are supposed to be. I too have donated to other organizations, and hoping my donations have been doing good works.

    December 24, 2012
  • Deb

    We took in 2 of the horses that were left with others on the Tulalip reservation. We have Alice & Charlie~ Charlie has to date has gained 145 lbs since joining us, and Miss Alice, who was in rough shape, went from 1000 lbs at just under 18h, to 1220 lbs. They both are happy, Charlie will go for a 30 day brush up training session in the Spring, and Alice is permanently retired with us! You can follow them on FB at http://www.facebook.com/emeraldcitytbproject2010

    January 25, 2013
  • Debbie Richmond

    I can help anyone detect fraud. If you’d like to contact me, my email is windhorse1@lavabit.com.

    July 6, 2013