Maybe it’s a sign of the financial times but it is welcome news that animal welfare organizations have joined a cohesive effort to save the 26 horses, 18 cows and 6 goats rescued Thursday, May 13 from a five acre farm in Garrett County, Maryland. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals along with the American Humane Association and the Garrett County Humane Society have pooled their resources to work closely with Days End Farm Horse Rescue (DEFHR) the organization that will be evaluating and rehabilitating the rescued animals.
The farm owner’s name is being withheld pending formal filing of cruelty charges. All these animals were living in appalling conditions among numerous rotting carcasses of at least seventeen other animals scattered throughout the pasture. Trees on the property were stripped bare from where horses tried to find sustenance. One horse was found in a barn with the door nailed shut standing in 31″ of accumulated feces raising him in very close proximity to the ceiling!
When the animals were removed, the entire 26 horses were brought to DEFHR in Woodbine, Maryland for evaluation and rehabilitation. DEFHR specializes in providing critical care rehabilitation to impounded horses and the staff are considered expert witnesses for testimony in court cases. Maryland state law provides a ten day window for the owner to file for custody; if he does not the animals will be legally safe to continue rehabilitation uninterrupted.
This animal rescue is the largest in the history of Garrett County, a primarily agricultural area of Maryland. Animal Control Officer Denise Lohr, one of the entire staff of nine volunteers with Garrett County Humane Society, said while it will take some time to sort through the necessary veterinary evaluations before pressing charges, she expects this case to top 50 individual counts of animal cruelty. It is too soon to determine the reason for the neglect; the owner fell on financial hard times, or it may be a case of animal hoarding. Lohr says Garrett County Humane Society has been working with the owner for the past four years but during the most recent visit conditions had worsened to the point of no return and the process of impounding the animals began.
The cows were also emaciated and neglected; the six goats are reported in good condition and are being fostered by one of the DEFHR staff. Given the conditions found at the property Lohr stated she would not leave the goats behind.
While animal cruelty is a misdemeanor in Maryland, the state has some of the toughest laws on the books because Maryland law actually quantitatively and qualitatively defines minimum standard of care. The punishment in Maryland for each count of animal cruelty calls for up to 90 days incarceration and a fine of up to $1,000 per count.
Sue Mitchell, Director of Development for DEFHR reports that, based on the Henneke Body Condition Scoring Chart where 9 is obese and 5 is normal, all twenty-six horses were scored at 3, 2 or 1: starving and emaciated. As herbivores, horses need to have evenly filed teeth in order to properly chew their food; the rescued horses all had overgrown and long teeth that made proper mastication impossible. This leads to an inability to gain proper nutrition because the food is swallowed whole and a horse’s gastrointestinal tract is not capable of breaking down the nutrients in un-chewed food. The horses also have overgrown hoofs, a painful condition that can lead to orthopedic issues and additionally, suspected intestinal parasites.
It is anticipated that these rescued equines will require critical care for a minimum of three months. Those with a Henneke score of 1 will likely need six to nine months. At a cost of $2,000 per horse per month to provide critical care, donations are more than welcome! AHA has awarded DEFHR a $9,000 Second Chance Fund Grant and has deployed volunteers to Maryland to help with emergency care of the horses.
Aside from money, DEFHR can use more volunteers to help care for the animals during their stay. And, if you are considering adopting a horse, now is a good time to take a look at the many already rehabilitated horses available for adoption at DEFHR. Just like animal shelters where dogs and cats come and go through intake and adoption, so do the horses at DEFHR. Adoption of one of their horses frees up a space for another neglected or abused horse to enter the healing auspices of DEFHR shelter.
Brooke Vrany, Assistant Director at DEFHR, reports that ten of the 26 horses are well enough to go to other equine rescue groups in the area, namely Gentle Giants and HorseNet both located within 20 miles of DEFHR in Maryland. This will enable the remaining 16 more critically ill horses to remain at DEFHR for complete rehabilitation prior to adoption.
The good news is these animals are free of the neglect they have endured. They now have the opportunity to heal in a loving and safe environment and the possibility of adoption to a home where they will get the love and attention they deserve for the rest of their lives.
Photo of one of the rescued horses with permission by DEFHR
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