The eight neglected and malnourished horses rescued last month near Linden came from a property owned by a couple who, until two years ago, ran a horse-adoption business, according to the Lycoming Chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Ted and Joni Fink, of 1313 Youngs Road, Linden, were among four people charged this week with the summary offense of cruelty to animals, said Larry Woltz, a humane officer for the SPCA.
The charges stem from eight horses that were seized from the Fink property in Piatt Township on Feb. 20 after authorities received a tip of possible neglect occurring there, Woltz said.
One of eight horses rescued last month from Ted and Joni Fink’s farm in Linden peers out of its stall. The horses now are temporarily housed at the Appalachian Horse Help & Rescue on Yerger Road in Linden as they receive medical attention and proper food and bedding. After they have recovered, they will be put up for adoption through the Lycoming County SPCA.
Investigators allege that the Finks were negligent in their care of the eight horses by failing to feed them and provided necessary veterinary and farrier care.
Investigators found two dead horses on the property that were "manure-packed," Woltz said, "meaning manure was piled over the horses. We couldn't prove how they died."
Woltz said it is "legal in Pennsylvania to do that. You don't have to bury a horse or a cow. You can just pile manure over them."
Fink, 44, and his 45-year-old wife owned three of the horses while three other horses were owned by Alexandria M. Johnson, 19, of Avis, and two more were owned by David P. Ramsey, 69, of West Chester, Woltz said.
Like the Finks, both Johnson and Ramsey each have been charged with cruelty to animals, Woltz said.
Owners of horses are responsible to make sure their animals are being properly cared for, Woltz said.
From 2007 to 2012, the Finks operated a horse-adoption business on their property, Woltz said, adding that they closed the business on their own.
Waltz said the SPCA received calls over the years of alleged neglect at the property, but no charges ever were filed.
"We responded, made recommendations, and corrections were made," Woltz said.
"But in this incident, we received a tip that two horses had died and that other horses were suffering. When we responded this time, we found excessive problems, starving horses and other issues. We needed to get a search warrant," which led to the horse rescues, he said.
Woltz showed a pamphlet that promoted the former horse-adoption business. "Where dreams become a reality" is written on the front of the pamphlet.
Life for the eight horses that were kept at the property "turned into a nightmare," Woltz said.
Since their rescue, the horses have been recovering at Appalachian Horse Help & Rescue, 1201 Yerger Road, Linden.
"The horses are doing well. They are recovering. A veterinarian has been to the rescue barn on three separate occasions to examine and treat them. A farrier has been there to treat the horses' feet," Woltz said.
"Their recovery is going to be long term, anywhere from six months to a year," he added.
They eventually will be put up for adoption.
If convicted of the summary offense, those charged could be fined $50 to $750 and receive a sentence of up to 90 days in jail, Woltz said. The SPCA will seek restitution for medical treatment costs and forfeiture of the horses.
The Finks and Johnson already have relinquished ownership of their horses to the SPCA, Woltz said. Ramsey has not followed suit.
All four charged will have an opportunity to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty before District Judge Jerry C. Lepley.