WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a farm off of Greenville Loop Road after several horses were found emaciated with varying health complications.
According to a report, on July 14, an animal control officer received a call about a horse on the loose. While on that call, the officer saw an emaciated horse stuck in the mud and also noticed several other emaciated horses on the property.
Rescue crews were able to get the horse out of the mud, but it later died. A doctor called to the property evaluated the other horses and determined five were in bad shape and needed emergency attention. The horses were taken to Horton’s Rehab Ranch LLC.
During the investigation, the owner of the property, Robert Woody, Jr., told deputies he had fallen ill and his wife is in poor health. They asked their daughter Sarah Woody to care for the animals. Sarah works full time and is in school and had trouble keeping up with the horses’ care.
A previous report said the family is contributing to help with the costs of the horses’ care, but Jewell Horton at Horton’s Rehab Ranch says that isn’t true.
“I have confirmed with the vet hospital and with Penderosa rescue and, of course, my nonprofit. None of us have received any type of financial contribution from the family,” Horton said.
The remaining horses are being monitored.
Of the five surrendered to Penderosa Rescue and Sanctuary, Horton says two of them have been adopted by someone who works in a veterinarian’s office and has the skills and resources to care for them. Horton is working as a consultant for Penderosa and keeping the horses on her property where she runs Horton’s Rehab Ranch.
She wants other horse owners to know there is help for people who fall on hard times.
“Its okay to ask for help. Not everyone can give help, but ask for help because I really do have a lot of faith in our equine community. This community is ever impressive when it comes to crisis,” she said. "In Hurricane Florence, they stepped up and provided stabling and we had food banks going and, you know, we had a local horse woman whose barn burnt down and the community stepped up for her. It just seems like every time we have something big in our community come up, our community rallies and I really feel like had this family potentially reached out, they probably would have rallied for them and tried to prevent this.”
So far, donors have raised $2,500 through a Facebook fundraiser for the horses’ care and Horton says some of the veterinary care, feed and other supplies have also been donated.
The sheriff’s office is still investigating to determine whether charges should be filed.
Horton encourages everyone to withhold judgement.
“I know there is a lot of judgement out there on this situation and all I can say on that is facts are still being gathered, its being looked into. I completely empathize with the horse community’s concern, but you know, you have to let the investigation run its course and see what they find before passing judgement. Right now, we need to be here for the horses and that’s the most important thing.”