Nine horses and two ponies, most so thin that their rib and hip bones were quite visible, were removed from a Defiance County pasture and taken to Voice for Horses Rescue in western Lucas County last night.
It was the second time in two weeks that skinny, hungry horses were ordered to be moved to the rescue facilities by area sheriff's offices. The animals in last night's roundup were believed to be suffering from malnutrition, improper living conditions, and improper care, Defiance County Sheriff David Westrick said.
Dave Eicher, the owner of the horses, many of which had long, curling hooves in need of trimming, was not charged yesterday, but the sheriff's investigation is continuing.
"I understand that the horse owner was cooperative, so that will be taken into consideration," the sheriff said.
Mr. Eicher is a horse dealer, buying horses at auctions - such as the sales in Shipshewana, Ind. - and reselling them, said Diana Murphy, who last night was working with volunteers struggling to move gates that were frozen into the ground to open another pasture at her Voice for Horses rescue facility in Spencer Township.
"These horses, I guess, are very sweet and [easygoing] and loving. But again, that's because they are so thin they have no energy to fight," Ms. Murphy said.
Although Mr. Eicher authorized the removal of the horses from his pasture on Seevers Road in Milford Township in the northwest corner of Defiance County, they still belong to him, Ms. Murphy said.
She said that if Mr. Eicher would be charged and found guilty of animal cruelty, she would ask the courts to order the horses to be turned over to the rescue, with restitution from Mr. Eicher.
The rescue, she said, will pay for veterinarian's statements and photographs of the horses that it will present to the sheriff's office as evidence of the alleged mistreatment.
Almost immediately after hearing from a Voice for Horses representative, who met with Mr. Eicher along with a Defiance County sheriff's deputy yesterday afternoon, Ms. Murphy made phone calls to two of her suppliers and one rescue donor.
"We've got some problems," she said, going on to explain the immediate challenge of caring for 11 more horses, in addition to two that she took in from a Henry County abuse case two weeks ago and 30 that have been at the rescue longer.
Those three calls produced promised donations of 28 round bales of hay worth more than $800, about 1,000 pounds of feed worth $200, and $250 in cash.
This is the first time that Ms. Murphy has been sent horses from two local cruelty investigations in such a short time.
Two weeks earlier, she received three horses from Bradley Lech in the Liberty Center area. He told a sheriff's deputy he had not had hay for the animals in four weeks. A yearling in that group of horses died in Ms. Murphy's arms soon after it was taken to the rescue.
Mr. Lech is charged in Napoleon Municipal Court with three counts of cruelty to animals.
Last night's group of horses included some Tennessee walkers, paints, and quarter horses that arrived at the rescue in three livestock trailers belonging to rescue volunteers.
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