TUSCOLA – Fourteen horses have been taken to new homes after sheriff's deputies and state animal investigators discovered two dead horses at a horse training center in rural Douglas County.
According to a Douglas County sheriff's report, deputies were helping serve an eviction notice at the Three Crosses Learning Center on U.S. 45 east of Tuscola on Saturday when they discovered two dead horses and several others in distress.
The deputies called an area horse rescue organization, the Dewey-based Society for Hooved Animals Rescue and Emergency, which provided three animal investigators from the Illinois Department of Agriculture to visit the center.
The society's founder and state investigator Linda Hewerdine said her team found two dead horses and 14 alive.
"The dead ones had been in the stall for two weeks, and we found two puppies that were trying to eat the carcass of a dead horse because they were hungry," Hewerdine said on Monday. "The owner wasn't around. She had been evicted, and her belongings were out in the snow."
Hewerdine said the dead horses were a buckskin gelding and a paint mare.
After the investigators contacted the owner of the horses, the owner relinquished the four horses in the worst condition to the rescue organization, which took them to their farm in rural Dewey on Sunday.
Hewerdine said the remaining horses at the training center were taken to another farm in rural Dewey.
"We found somebody who volunteered to take care of the remaining horses," Hewerdine said. "It is a sad situation."
The Douglas County sheriff's office, the Douglas County animal control department and the Illinois Department of Agriculture are investigating.
According to the Douglas County Sheriff's office, investigators are trying to determine whether there was neglect or abuse, and if that was the cause of death.