MANSFIELD – The Piatt County sheriff's office has asked for a warrant for the arrest of a rural Mansfield man in connection with three horses that starved to death and a fourth horse that was rescued.
Meanwhile, the surviving horse, a black Tennessee walker, has been taken into custody at a horse rescue farm in rural Dewey.
Piatt County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Todd McCabe said Wednesday that he has asked Piatt County State's Attorney Leonard Rumery for a warrant to arrest the owner of four horses on a farm on the 2700 section of County Road 1500E, which is on the Piatt County Line.
Linda Hewerdine, a certified animal investigator for the Illinois Department of Agriculture, said that she and McCabe were called to the farm on Dec. 26 to respond to a report that a horse was running at large.
Hewerdine said she was shocked to find three dead horses and a fourth one dying of hunger.
The investigator said two dead horses and one dying horse were together in a makeshift stall. A fourth horse was found dead in a nearby pasture.
"One was very young and one was blind; they were all mares," Hewerdine said.
"It was kind of obvious they were starved," McCabe said.
Hewerdine said she was filled with compassion as she approached the horse that was still alive.
"When I found her, she was so skinny that her ribs and spine were sticking out. You can see her backbone," Hewerdine said. "She appears to be about 12 years old. I don't think the poor mare had eaten for a good long while."
Hewerdine said she talked to the owner of the farm, whom she identified as Richard Pagel. She said that he signed over ownership of the Tennessee walking horse to her. Hewerdine than took the horse to Hoofed Animal Rescue and Emergency (SHARE), a horse rescue organization in Dewey.
There, volunteers have been working all week to feed and care for the mare.
"She just about hasn't stopped eating and drinking since I found her," Hewerdine said.
Meanwhile, Piatt County sheriff's deputies took the three dead horses to Centralia, where a necropsy was conducted late last week to determine cause.
"While we knew they starved to death, we wanted to be able to rule out other causes of death," McCabe said.
Hewerdine said that there were other animals on the farm besides the horses.
"There were some cattle," Hewerdine said. "When I returned to the farm on Monday, Mr. Pagel's father had removed them, but there still was one dog and two cats."
Hewerdine said she intends to make the black Tennessee walking horse available for adoption when the horse is healthy.