The investigation into the dead and starving horses found on a Wicomico County farm continues. The sheriff's office reveals they have visited the farm over 80 times.

The heartwrenching case of the dead and starving horses found on a Wicomico County farm continues as the sheriff's office and the Humane Society of Wicomico County conduct investigations into potential animal cruelty. In a press conference, Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis revealed that deputies had visited the farm at least 81 times in the past five years. While the majority of these visits were for complaints of loose horses, the sheriff's office has investigated the farm for neglect against the horses in the past. In 1995, property owner Barbara Pilchard was charged with 100 counts of animal neglect when 200 cats were removed from the Wicomico County farm, though she was never prosecuted. Since then, the sheriff's department has brought the humane society and an equine expert to the property but they found insufficient evidence for animal neglect. The sheriff's office did charge Pilchard with criminal citations for illegally dumping horse feces on neighbors' properties and country roads. Lewis described these citations as a way to hold Pilchard responsible for her actions when the department did not have enough evidence for an animal neglect case. In 2015, the Maryland Department of Agriculture, a state veterinarian and the executive director of the Maryland Horse Industry Board visited the farm at the request of the sheriff's office. The Maryland Department of Agriculture gave the property owners a list of recommendations regarding the care of six horses who showed signs of neglect. [caption id="attachment_8454" align="aligncenter" width="960"]Wicomico county farm Courtesy of Changing Fates Equine Rescue of Delaware, Inc.[/caption] The sheriff's office went back to the farm last week as a result of a tip from a news helicopter that was able to see at least 25 dead and over 100 starving horses on the property. According to Lewis, the sheriff's never had the authority to go into the fenced-off area of the farm and the aerial footage was the first chance the office got to see how bad the situation really was. So far, neither of the property owners have been charged with a crime. This case will rely largely on the forensic evidence such as the necropsy results of the dead horses and the veterinary examinations of the surviving horses. State's Attorney Jamie Dykes stated, "There will be no rush to judgment. Charging a crime is not anything we take lightly." During the press conference, Lewis described the case as a "heartbreaking case of irresponsibility and incompetence." He goes on to state that the Pilchard's had a love and passion for horses that grew out of control and concludes that what may seem acceptable to one animal owner may not be acceptable to others. Some people have expressed concern that it has taken the sheriff's office so long to seize the horses and have wondered if horses' lives could have been saved if more was done sooner.
While the investigation continues, the surviving horses are being relocated to rescue groups. The relocation process has been difficult because of the large number of horses and inclement weather. So far, around 100 horses have been removed from the property. Sadly, three horses had to be euthanized and two foals were stillborn since the rescue began. An estimated 15 to 20 mares are pregnant so there soon could be even more horses that need care. Changing Fates Equine Rescue of Delaware, Inc. said the horses were basically fending for themselves on the Wicomico County farm when the rescue efforts began. The horses are being cared for by Changing Fates Equine Rescue of Delaware Inc., Humane Society of Wicomico County, Last Chance Animal Rescue and Days End Horse Rescue. The horses are being examined by veterinarians and are slowly being transitioned to a diet of grains after the horses were forced to eat aluminum siding to survive on the farm. [gallery type="rectangular" size="large" ids="8455,8456,8457"] Anyone who wants to help the horses can donate to these groups. The horses will need lots of veterinary care and materials to help rehabilitate them from the trauma they have suffered. Last Chance Animal Rescue says that it will cost them $1,000 a week just to provide the horses with hay. You can visit the links to their pages for information on how to donate. What do you think? Do you think the sheriff's office did enough for the horses? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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