Augusta Veterinarians Caring For HorsesPosted: Updated: March 2, 2010 04:04 AM EST
Veterinarians call it one of the worst abuse cases they've seen. Dozens of malnourished horses from Augusta County are in recovery and rehab at an equine hospital, and some may still not survive.
Animal control officers found one horse dead and others searching for food at the Staunton-area farm of Terry Lynn Sullivan. One of the vets helping the horses recover compared their living conditions to a concentration camp. Now the horses are being carefully nursed back to health.
Doctor Wynne DiGrassie says,"There's nothing but skin over this rib cage." Of the 30 neglected horses from the Terry Sullivan farm, seven are kept inside and closely watched, still in danger of starvation. One mare is reportedly some 300 pounds underweight.
Digrassie says, "There should just be fat and muscle all over here. But the problem is, basically she's eaten away all her protein and fat trying to keep herself alive." She's among many horses that scored at the rock-bottom of a body-condition scale.
Digrassie says, " They're extremely, extremely thin... Don't have any fat or any muscle, really, covering most of their body."
Augusta SPCA Director Debbie Caywood says, "If these horses make it through the next week to 10 days, then they have a good chance of survival."
The Mountain View Equine Hospital, along with SPCA volunteers, aim to improve those odds with steady feeding, watering and de-worming. These experts say the horses had no steady food supply for up to two months, and eventually resorted to eating bushes and tree bark.
Digrassie says, "She just truly was committing an act of cruelty by indiscriminately feeding whenever she wanted to, or not going out and feeding at all. I mean, it takes a long time for horses to get in this body condition." And probably four to five months to get them back out and ready to adopt. The SPCA is charged with finding homes for them all.
Debbie Caywood says, "Most people that have feelings or love of horse, then they always step up and always make room for one more, especially in a rescue situation."
Digrassie says."It is hard to see them in this kind of condition, but it is definitely satisfying when we get to take them away and give them another chance at life."
While adoptions may be weeks and months away, the Augusta Regional SPCA has immediate need for food and supplies for the rescued horses.