Horses, dogs taken from Zuni farm

Published 7:47 am Friday, January 23, 2009

ZUNI—Authorities removed 23 horses and 31 dogs from a farm near Zuni on Wednesday after receiving complaints that the horses were malnourished.

Isle of Wight County Sheriff C.W. “Charlie” Phelps said the animals were removed from Meadows Quarter Horse Farm on Sand Pit Road.

Phelps said the horses were put in the care of the U.S. Equestrian Rescue League, which placed them at other farms in Hampton Roads.

Eight horses remain at the farm and “will be monitored almost daily” by the county’s Department of Animal Control, Phelps said.

Deputies and state and private veterinarians were at the farm all day Wednesday, Phelps said.

The sheriff said the health of horses is measured by a point system called “condition scoring,” a scale that ranges from 0 to 9. Horses that score between 1 and 3, 4 and 6 and 7 and 9 are considered to be in poor, moderate and obese condition, respectively.

According to Phelps, all of the horses that were taken from the farm were in poor condition, and the eight that remained were all in moderate shape. “There were more ‘4s’ than anything else,” he said.

Authorities did not take possession of any of the 31 dogs that were removed from the farm; they were turned over to the group Golden Retriever Rescue, Phelps said.

The sheriff said the farm’s owners have been cooperative and no charges have been filed, but he added that “there is a strong possibility that some charges will come out of this.”

“We will be discussing this at length with (others investigating) and the Commonwealth’s Attorney.”

Phelps confirmed that deputies were at the farm on Jan. 8 after responding to a call about a dead horse there. The deputies discovered that there were two dead horses at the farm.

A state veterinarian examined the other horses at the farm and reported that most were malnourished and had problems with their teeth and hooves, Phelps said. The sheriff also said two of the horses were euthanized, and the owners were given 10 days to improve the health of the remaining horses.

Representatives of the Equestrian Rescue League and Golden Retriever Rescue could not be reached for comment.