Posted at: 01/11/2013 6:43 PM
By: John Doetkott
(ABC 6 NEWS) -- One horse is dead and three others were taken by police after the Freeborn County Sheriff's Department received reports that the animals were being neglected.
On Wednesday, Freeborn County officials were alerted that four horses in rural Oakland were not being properly cared for, and although deputies responded quickly, it was too late to rescue them all.
When deputies arrived at the home on Thursday, one horse had already died and the three others were in very poor health.
"They’re very emaciated, ribs, hip bones are showing,” said Freeborn County Sheriff Bob Kindler. “They do have a winter coat on so it makes the appearance of the horses not as dramatic as probably what it is."
Officials said the animals did not have proper shelter, were not getting enough food, and were drinking tainted water.
The horses were taken to an undisclosed location, where they’ve received anti-parasite medication and other treatment, but officials say they were most in need of a good meal.
“They definitely need some care,” said Christa Stieler, shelter manager at the Freeborn County Humane Society. “They were very excited for hay and feed too."
Authorities are waiting for an official veterinary review of the horses' health before deciding whether criminal charges are appropriate. But police have said that regardless of whether charges are ultimately filed, action will be taken.
“We wouldn't just release them back to the owner,” Kindler said. “There would have to be some type of conditions set and some assurances that they would take care of the animals."
The horses are currently being cared for by the freeborn county humane society.
And while the full extent of their condition won't be known until the veterinary report comes back, humane society officials say they're happy they got to them when they did.
“Being that we're in January, the winter's just going to get harder and harder for them,” Stieler said. “I'm glad we got them out."
Police are not releasing the names of the horse owners as they try to determine exactly who the primary caretaker is.
The property owner, who lives in Litchfield, Minnesota, said she was not aware the horses had been seized and said the people who live on the property had been there only a few months.