Animal experts say they are very concerned about a dramatic increase in the number of horse neglect cases across the state.
Thursday morning Shelby County Sheriff James Moore served a seizure warrant to Tarry Pattison of Timpson.
Volunteers from two horse rescue organizations immediately went to work loading 38 malnourished paint and quarter horses into trailers. The horses are on a ranch in Nacogdoches County, close to fresh hay and water.
Pattison says he leased some of the animals for breeding purposes. As of now, he is not facing any criminal charges. As the horses were led away Pattison said, "We have strapped ourselves financially. I'm glad the horses are being taken care of."
An owner from Kansas said she was unaware that her 16 horses were in need of care. She says she wants to work with the rescue agencies to get her horses back.
Last year in Texas civil and criminal neglect cases involved more than 650 horses. The increase is attributed to a variety of reasons including a poor economy, a depressed horse market, and owners who aren't prepared for the cost of caring for a horse.
But there's also increased collaboration between law enforcement agencies and equine rescue groups. That was quite evident in the Timpson rescue mission.
Sheriff Moore and volunteers worked together. Their common bond is knowing when a horse needs a caring hand.
The horses were seen in a junk-filled lot by Gwen Gillespie every day on her way to work to the Nacogdoches Animal Shelter where she serves as director. "You drive by. It's just like they're waiting for you. It's like any other animal just waiting to be taken care of, but nobody shows up," said Gillespie.
But this time someone did show up. Gillespie linked Sheriff Moore with the rescue groups, Lone Star Equine Rescue and Habitat For Horses.
Volunteers from across the state brought their stock trailers to Timpson so that the underfed horses can have a fighting chance of survival. They documented each animal before trailering them to a volunteer's ranch.
Sheriff Moore appreciates the help. "It saves the county the expense of transporting these animals, picking them up and feeding them."
The horses will receive good care for at least 10 days until a judge can decide their future. Unfortunately, some of the horses before her didn't receive the help they needed in time according to Lone Star Equine Rescue volunteer, Sharon Martin-Holm. "We often do find dead horses and skeletons on the properties and places like this where the horses have been neglected."
There are no confirmed animal deaths in this case, but the caretaker's neighbor Kay Lacy says several undernourished mares had aborted their foals. As a favor, she fed two expecting mares for Pattison. "I know he's tried. Everybody falls on hard times, and I can understand that. But I'm not making excuses because there is no excuse to let an animal not have something to eat," she said after tearing up over the situation.
Equine rescuers have seen cases like this one over and over again. They hope to continue working with authorities and volunteers to provide the help that so many horses are now needing.
The horses involved this morning received an emergency rescue. But in most cases, rescue organizations try to work with the owner over a period of time explained Debbie Pendleton a volunteer for Habitat For Horses. "Sometimes we give a warning... Give them time to seek veterinarian care or to start feeding the horse. We come back in two weeks or a week depending if the horses are in really bad shape. Then if the horses are in really bad shape we get a warrant and pull the horses."
Some rescue organizations buy horses to prevent neglect and to keep them from going to slaughterhouses. If you can no longer care for a horse, you're encouraged to contact the non-profit organizations for help.
To report neglected horses or to adopt horses, contact:
Lone Star Equine Rescue, P.O. Box 627, Haslet, TX 76052, www.lser.org