The importance of a caring parent was clearly displayed Thursday when examining the physical condition of horses seized from a farm in southeastern Knox County.
The stark contrast becomes even more apparent when you see how a horse rescued from the same farm in 2012 has rebounded from near-starvation.
Six horses seized "identical" to 2012 cruelty
On Thursday the six horses rescued from a southeast Knox County farm continued to recover from severe malnutrition and neglect. The animals were seized Wednesday from the same farm where more than 35 starving and injured horses were seized in March 2012.
Officers arrested 59-year-old Linda Cowell and 58-year-old Barry Smith for violating their probation. The couple pleaded guilty in January to charges of animal cruelty from the March 2012 raid. A spokesperson with KCSO said the current case is under investigation and no additional charges have been filed as of yet.
"This current situation is identical to the 2012 case. The only difference is there are not as many horses," said Nina Margetson with Horse Haven of Tennessee. "There were four adults and two babies rescued. Five of them were sent to us [at Horse Haven] and the sixth is still at UT animal hospital receiving treatment. It is a pregnant mare that is expected to deliver at any time."
Margetson said horses' bodies are gauged on a scale of 1-9 with higher numbers representing better physical condition. She said most of the horses seized Wednesday were given a grade of 2 on the body scale.
"They are extremely malnourished and neglected. The abuse and neglect here is disgusting. The mare that is still at UT may be more like a 1 on the body scale. She was living in a dark stall deep in its own feces and urine and it is unbelievable to think she would be left there to give birth in that environment. These people [Cowell and Smith] have to be stopped. They should never be allowed to own horses again," said Margetson. "The mare being treated at UT also was primarily eating fescue, so we have some concern about the nutrition and condition of the baby."
Margetson said there is a good chance two of the recently rescued horses were allowed to remain at the farm after the March 2012 raid because their body weight mistakenly seemed acceptable.
"Based on the age of these two horses' babies, I think there is a good chance these horses were pregnant during the rescue last year. That would have affected their body weight, so the vets may have been fooled because they were pregnant," said Margetson.
The mother horses are now especially emaciated as they continue to nurse their young.
"The problem we
have now with these two is they have nursing babies which means they
don't have enough nutrition to maintain themselves. That's usually what
a mom will do is she'll give all she has to keep her baby going. The babies are in okay shape," said Margetson. "Now they're all feeling a little better and have access to food and water, but are a little shy of people today."
Horse named Holly offers hope
Following the March 2012 raid, Horse Haven helped adopt out the rescued horses. One of the animals was a black Tennessee walking horse that pulled at the heart strings of Chelsea Jones.
"I was helping Horse Haven last year when the starving horses were being treated and kept at Chilhowee Park," said Jones. "This one horse that I was helping was really docile and weak, but raised its head and kind of gave me a hug with its neck. I just started crying."
Jones said the horse named Holly was adopted by someone else, only to again be rescued.
"When someone adopted Holly the first time, I was sad but figured it just was not meant to be. But then she was rescued again and I went to visit her. I call it a love story because when she saw me she stopped eating and left her food to walk in my direction. We met each other halfway and I was just in tears. I knew we had to adopt her."
This has been a busy time for the Jones family. Chelsea and her husband Steven have a young son named Xander and are expecting another child in three months. Yet, they extended their love to welcome the eight-year-old Holly into their family.
"She has put on about 100 pounds since we adopted her. When I first saw her after the confiscation, you could distinctly see her ribs and put your fingers between them. That was when she still had a thick winter coat, too. You could see her spine. She was coated in mud and had a lot of problems with her hooves. To see all of that is not a good sign of a healthy horse," said Jones.
Now Holly features a shiny well-groomed coat and enough girth that Jones imagines a future where she can be ridden.
"You want to make absolutely sure the horse is strong enough for a rider, get the right saddle, and all sorts of other stuff. We are not there, yet. But even if we never ride her she will be a great horse to just walk around with," said Jones.
The deplorable condition of the horses rescued on Wednesday and the turnaround demonstrated by Holly stands as a testament for why Jones says people should report animal abuse.
"It takes a strong individual to stand up and report someone for mistreating animals. It also takes persistence to make sure people listen to your complaints and believe you. But if people do not speak up, these animals will suffer in those awful conditions instead of being happy and healthy like Holly," said Jones. "I'm glad to have her and she was the perfect match for us. It was amazing to me."