From staff reports

Orange County deputies seized four horses and 10 others were voluntarily surrendered following an animal cruelty investigation in the Mine Run area last month.

According to Orange County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Maj. Mike LaCasse, following a complaint, Orange County animal control officer Angie Bonner conducted a welfare check on a number of horses in the 13000 block of St. Just Road.

The complaint was filed Jan. 15 and Bonner responded as soon as the complaint was received, LaCasse said.

Upon investigation, she discovered that four of the horses on the property were dead and four others were in such terrible condition that they were immediately seized.

“In order for an animal to be seized, it must be in such a condition that its life is in danger,” LaCasse said.

As the investigation continued, he said, 10 horses were voluntarily turned over by the property owner. Others remained on the approximately 6-acre site, he said. 

“Any time horses are voluntarily turned over, they’re not in great shape, but if they keep living in the squalor they’re in, they may need to be seized in the future,” he said.

Meanwhile, the sheriff’s office must maintain custody of seized horses pending a seizure hearing and appeal period.

LaCasse said in some cases, local farms are able to assist the sheriff’s office by maintaining the horses in their custody. He also noted that seized horses could remain on the subject property, if it proved viable. In this case, he said, it did not.

The 10 horses voluntarily turned over by the property owner were placed in the care of Hope’s Legacy Equine Rescue in Afton.

“Rescue organizations like Hope’s Legacy have really stepped up to the plate to help us in situations like this,” he said. “They rely on donations to vet, feed and care for these animals. Hopefully, some folks will contact them with donations.”

LaCasse said there has been a marked improvement in the health of the four horses Bonner seized last month.

The investigation is continuing and animal cruelty charges are anticipated, LaCasse said.

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