12 starving horses rescued from Madera County ranch


Madera Animal Services said in addition to the starving horses they found the skulls of four dead horses, along with a decomposing carcass, which had been buried just over a week ago...

A veterinarian is examining each of these 12 starving horses very carefully. She uses a scale of 1 to 9 to rate their weight -- one being very malnourished. One horse has been so neglected his rating below one. Others are not so bad, but each is anywhere from 100 to 200 pounds underweight.

Senior Animal Services Officer Amy Toler says Thursday's seizure was prompted after they noticed the horses dropped about 70 pounds in a month. "It's very important for us to do this seizure, because the winter month's coming up ahead. A horse up in the mountains severely underweight wouldn't survive."

Animal services, acting under a warrant, seized the horses from a home near O'Neals. The owners have been in trouble for animal neglect before according to animal services.

They live on a private street near Road 200 and House Ranch Road. Animal services says the 9-acre lot where the horses lived sits on rugged terrain, and with little food the horses often fed on sand and their own feces. Scars from their backs to their legs show just how much effort these equines put into finding food.

"In this situation they're constantly fighting because each scrap of food is life for them. That's all they can do to get one mouthful of hay, that may be all they get in a day. It's survival of the fittest," said veterinarian Kristen Wallert.

The horses will no longer need to fight for food, but they still have to fight for their lives.

The names of the horse owners have not been released, but they will likely face animal cruelty charges.

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