After multiple citizen complaints about the condition of the horses, Dare County Animal Services and the United States Equine Rescue League (USERL) started an investigation, according to Outer Banks SPCA Director John Graves.
“The property had so much junk on it where the actual horses were being kept,” Graves said. He added there were bed springs matted into the horses hair from mattresses on the property.
On January 27, the lengthy investigation was far enough along for authorities to go to the property and remove the animals they say were not being well cared for. Graves said nine emaciated horses were seized from a one-acre property: five mares, one stallion, and two geldings.
Paul Hutchins said he called authorities about the alleged abuse in December. At the time, he was watching the horses while the owners were on vacation.
“I was distraught at what condition they were in,” Hutchins said. “The horses can’t speak for themselves, so somebody had to speak up for them. So, I did.”
The horses were between 5 and 25 years of age and had body condition scores between 1.5 and 3 on a 9-point scale. One horse had a 4-point body condition score. Graves said the ideal level for a horse’s body condition is between 5 and 6, based on the Henneke scale used by veterinarians.
The owners, Jim Oesting and Carla Gallop, face misdemeanor animal cruelty charges, due to the horses’ living conditions and their state of health, Graves said.
Their initial court appearance is March 12 at the Dare County Courthouse, where a judge will determine the future of the neglected animals.
Graves and Hutchins both want to see the nine horses get a second chance with new families.
Graves said it will take four to six months for the horses to regain their health, and the care required will cost thousands of dollars.
In the meantime, USERL investigators and volunteers are helping the Outer Banks SPCA care for the horses. Rescue organizations and citizens who want to help are asked to call USERL at 800-650-8549 or the Outer Banks SPCA at 252-475-5620.
(WAVY - March 9, 2015)