DEWEY — Eleven horses that were found to have been neglected on a Vermilion County farm have been taken to a Dewey horse rescue center.
Following a call from a neighbor, investigators from Dewey's Society for Hooved Animals' Rescue and Emergency — SHARE Horse Rescue — found 11 emaciated horses and one dead horse last week at a farm near Muncie, about 2 miles east of Fithian.
SHARE board member Lori Cooper said all the horses were suffering from neglect.
She said two of the horses are blind, which makes them more difficult to manage and more difficult to locate a home for. It is not believed the blindness is a result of lack of nourishment. One of the animals might be suffering from cataracts, which could be corrected by surgery.
Cooper said two others have pneumonia "that we're concerned about."
One of those horses collapsed while being loaded onto the trailer on Friday. "Fortunately volunteers were able to get him back up and on the trailer," Cooper said.
The horses are also suffering from rain rot — a bacterial skin infection that is frequently found on malnourished horses or horses kept in dirty conditions. One horse is suffering from arthritis, and another has a club foot, which might require surgery.
SHARE has been working with the Illinois Department of Agriculture, and the owner agreed to allow all 11 horses to be taken to the horse rescue.
Since the woman voluntarily surrendered the animals to the horse rescue and since the horse rescue is not pressing charges against the woman, Cooper said, the organization is not releasing the name of the horses' owner.
Cooper said humane investigators with SHARE and the Agriculture Department had been keeping an eye on the farm for some time. When a neighbor reported a dead horse in the barn, the investigation was accelerated.
She said the owner agreed to relinquish ownership of the horses to avoid prosecution.
Cooper said it was a case of neglect.
"The owner did not want to take the time or spend the money to care for her horses," Cooper said.
Volunteers worked in the mud to catch and transport the horses, all of which Cooper said are friendly, to the Dewey facility so they could be triaged for medical needs and other health issues.
The 11 horses went into a quarantine barn, which meant displacing the other horses of the barn — horses that have passed their quarantine time successfully, but don't have another place to go.
Now the place is packed to the limit.
"We were full before we got these other horses," Cooper said.
SHARE officials are looking for homes for its other horses.
"We're working on our foster care program" in which people agree to keep a horse, not adopt it, and will receive a tax deduction.
"While we have quite a wide variety of horses ready to adopt, we're looking for foster homes for the horses who maybe aren't going to get adopted — those who have some soundness issue that makes them not rideable, but still have fabulous personalities, are easy to care for and will integrate easily into the horse herd at a foster home," Cooper said.
The rescue is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, meaning costs incurred in taking care of foster horses can be deducted from taxes. The rescue is actively looking for foster homes as well as other donations to assist in caring for the 11 new horses.
"The added expenses of caring for them is really daunting," Cooper said.
The Society for Hooved Animals' Rescue and Emergency was formed in 2005.
Over the years the rescue has provided care for hundreds of horses, ponies, mules and donkeys. In 2012 the group took in 20 horses and adopted out 23, and the rescue continues to receive additional calls for help daily.