Central California SPCA investigates horse neglect

FRESNO, Calif.

The owner says the SPCA has visited her five times since May. She declined an on-camera interview with Action News because she says she's actively looking for work so she can once again afford to feed her horses.

She told Action News she's rescued many of the horses and owned them for years and doesn't want to lose them. But neighbors say the horses are too far underweight and something needs to happen before any of them starve to death.

The horses are finally getting the food they desperately need, but it's not much. Neighbors say the situation on the 13 acre lot is dangerous. The land is bare and the horses, neighbors say are starving.

Of those Action News saw while at the property most are skinny enough to see their rib cages, hip bones and spines. "Unfortunately there's not food for them and she's not feeding them," said concerned neighbor Jennifer Bethel. "And they look terrible and they're hungry."

The horses' owner told Action News she knows they're skinny. She says she just can't afford enough hay right now, but she's working toward finding a job and finding help with feed for her horses. The SPCA is actively investigating the owner.

"Most cruelty cases are unintentional neglect," the CCSPA's Beth Caffrey said by phone. "That's why we try to do everything we can to work with the responsible owner, so that we can correct the situation."

If the horses continue to starve there is a chance they may be seized. And the CCSPCA says the horses' condition has declined significantly in the past two weeks.

Friday evening some horses fed on hay donated by Eric Wardwell. He and others say people should help instead of complain. "It just touched my heart that I felt that I should be doing something about it," Wardwell said. "So I donated four bales of hay today, next week I'll be taking up 16 bales of hay."

"The economy is rough and every body's had a bad time. Help her, don't criticize her, don't put her down," Connie Hastings said.

But Bethel says it hasn't been that easy to help. "She doesn't want anybody involved, she wants us to just back off," she said. "Unfortunately, these animals are basically begging for help. We can't just back off."

The owner says she's following a request by the CCSPCA and bringing a vet to see the horses next week.

The CCSPCA says seizing the horses is a last resort and they will only do it if the animals are in 'imminent danger.'

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