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Former HiCaliber Horse Rescue board member and veterinarian details problems with finances, medical practices

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Michelle Knuttila, HiCaliber Horse Rescue's founder, at the nonprofit's property in Valley Center on March 2, 2018. (Megan Wood/inewsource)

By Brad Racino | inewsource

HiCaliber Horse Rescue’s former veterinarian and board member told inewsource Tuesday he has shared medical records and his concerns about HiCaliber’s founder practicing veterinary medicine without a license with the California Veterinary Medical Board.

Daniel Grove served on HiCaliber’s board of directors from its inception in 2013 until 2016 and was the Valley Center nonprofit’s primary veterinarian during that period. He also joined two other former HiCaliber board members in saying he never saw the group’s finances, which contradicts what HiCaliber reported to the Internal Revenue Service.

“I never saw any account statements, a checkbook, nothing. And nothing was presented formally to the board,” Grove said. “I guess I should have pressed harder for it, but it was not something that I was involved with.”

HiCaliber is currently being investigated by at least nine local and state agencies due to accusations of fraud and animal cruelty. HiCaliber’s founder, Michelle Knuttila, has told inewsource she has done nothing wrong and is not concerned about the allegations.

The California Veterinary Medical Board is a state agency that protects consumers and animals and enforces laws relating to the practice of veterinary medicine in California. A spokeswoman for the agency confirmed last week its investigation into HiCaliber.

Grove said the veterinary board specifically requested his medical records regarding HiCaliber. He also said he discussed Knuttila’s practicing medicine without a license with the agency.

Grove said one of the concerns he conveyed was about Knuttila going “above and beyond” what she should be doing when it comes to veterinary medicine. He pointed to HiCaliber’s online videos, in which Knuttila talks about performing a regional limb perfusion, which he said she “should not be doing.”

He said he felt working with HiCaliber was a great training experience for up-and-coming veterinarians in his practice, but “I kick myself in the pants a bit that I didn’t leave earlier.”

Grove also said he didn’t agree with what the group said when soliciting donations.

Asked for an example, Grove said HiCaliber “would always say they needed $250 to have a set of teeth done, and it was costing them roughly $160 or $165 – and I felt that that was kind of false advertising.” Grove’s said his practice was providing that and other services to HiCaliber at a heavy discount.

Two other former board members, Niki Avila and Miles Dunbar, reached out to inewsource Monday to say they had never reviewed the troubled organization’s 2014 tax filing – despite a checkbox on the form stating it had been shared with the board. Dunbar submitted a complaint about the inaccuracies to the IRS in March 2016 and added that he was reaching out now to “cover my ass, basically, for lack of a better term.”

When asked why he was reaching out now, Grove told inewsource he didn’t want to be culpable “for the time I was there for things someone else had done that I didn’t have much power over.”

Knuttila did not respond to an inewsource request for comment Tuesday afternoon.


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inewsource is an independent, investigative journalism nonprofit supported by foundations, philanthropists and viewers like you.


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