LINDEN - A dead horse, buried in a pile of manure. Eight horses barely living, skeletal with starvation, hooves rotting with thrush from standing in muck, fur matted and skin infected from rain rot.
That and more were what met Larry Woltz, Human Society police officer with Lycoming County SPCA, at a horse boarding barn on Young Road when he investigated a tip from one of the boarders Thursday.
A horse at the boarding facility died last weekend, and was buried in manure. Another died the month prior, Woltz said. One of the boarders saw the latest dead horse and called the SPCA. The SPCA had been aware of some problems, but not to the extent they found, Woltz said.
Accompanied by veterinarian Lis Lund and Linden-based Appalachian Horse Help & Rescue representatives, Woltz found five geldings, two stallions and a mare in dire circumstances during his search, authorized by a search warrant. While six of the horses were owned by the family at the Young Road farm, a West Chester man owns two of the horses, and will be notified of the event, Woltz said.
Woltz said he will file charges within the next week on up to four people after more investigation. Charges will include cruelty to animals, failure to provide necessary sustenance, failure to provide clean, sanitary shelter, failure to provide necessary veterinary and farrier care and failure to provide a reasonable environment.
Besides standing in their own muck and numerous health problems, "The horses had no food," Woltz said, and suffer dental problems. On a weight scale from 1-9, one being near death and nine at obese, some horses were at a one and none of them were above a three.
One horse was so weak it collapsed in the SPCA trailer. Another has a torn eye from a wire in its stall. Woltz and the others worked to get them out from 1 to 4:30 Thursday, bringing them to a safe haven, Appalachian Horse Help & Rescue, 1201 Yerger Road.
"Life here is like a miracle compared to where they came from," Woltz said.
Indeed, one of the horses voraciously chomped down hay. "He's happy," Woltz said, "he actually has food."
It will take weeks and months of daily care by the nonprofit's 20-plus volunteers to get the horses back on track, Woltz said. Those horses' ages range from early teens to "seniors." Horses can live into their 30s. The horses will also receive veterinarian care with shots and more, and a farrier will care for their damaged hooves.
Norm Koch, the nonprofit's treasurer, and whose wife Pamela started the organization in the late 1990s, said it will take volunteers a minimum of six hours a day to care for the horses, at 3 a.m. and 3 p.m. With these extra horses, Koch took the overflow of previously rescued horses to his own barn for care.
Woltz warns everyone to take extra care of their animals, especially in this lasting snow pack.
"It's not just dogs and cats, it's horses and cattle - there's no grass. They rely on us for food," Woltz said.
It will costs thousands of dollars to help the horses, and the SPCA absorbs the medical bills, Woltz said. The SPCA works with Appalachian Horse Help & Rescue for larger animals in need.
The public can help these abused and neglected horses by mailing monetary donations via check to Appalachian Horse Help & Rescue, 1201 Yerger Road, Linden, PA 17744.
The SPCA, 2805 Reach Road, also is accepting donations to help pay for the horses' medical care. Donations should be marked for the horse seizure.