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Community responds to pleas to help horses

County received a significant number of donations of hay, feed, medication and supplies

September 14, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Individuals concerned about the welfare of more than 50 horses seized from an equine rescue organization over the weekend inundated Berkeley County phone lines Tuesday and responded with donations of hay, grain and supplies, officials said.

"The outpouring of community support has just been outstanding," Berkeley County Sheriff's Department Deputy Scott Myers said Tuesday.

Authorities seized 56 horses and two young cows Saturday from Hidden Meadows Equine Rescue Inc. at 227 Edward Drive off Scrabble Road, east of Martinsburg, after they were found with little to eat and no water.

The operator of the horse-rescue facility has not been charged, but Myers said Tuesday that he still was investigating allegations of animal cruelty.

While donations are still needed for the malnourished horses, Myers said the county received a significant number of donations of hay, feed, medication and supplies Tuesday. Hay donations arrived just in time after the horses ate through 17 bales within two days, Myers said.

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Because of a pending legal investigation, Myers said the county is unable to accept volunteer help and has had to turn away people who offered their services.

Overwhelming interest in adopting the animals prompted officials to organize a show beginning at 9 a.m. today at the Myers Bridge Road farm where the horses are receiving care.

The farm is near the intersection of Jacobs Road and can be accessed via Greensburg Road off W.Va. 45. There is limited parking available.

After having an opportunity to see the animals, those still interested in adopting them will have to fill out adoption papers, Myers said.

If more than one person is interested in the same horse, numbers will be drawn from a hat, Myers said.

Myers expects the horses will be shown beginning about 10:30 or 11 a.m.

All of the adoptions will be contingent upon approval and required medical testing, Myers said.

Individuals approved for adopting a horse will receive a follow-up visit by county officials to check on the animal's welfare.

"We want good homes (for the horses)," Myers said.

Veterinarian Christine F. Bridges, who has assisted the county with providing emergency medical care for the horses, said about 50 percent of the animals have been tested for equine infection anemia, a viral disease that is closely monitored by the horse industry.

All of the horses tested as of Tuesday evening had a valid negative test result, Bridges said.

Myers said about 10 horses who are in the most serious medical condition will not be immediately relinquished by the county.

Myers said seven horses died last week at Hidden Meadows and another had to be put down there Friday after it was found dying.

The nonprofit organization's president, Mary O'Brien, relinquished the surviving animals, including three horses that were not part of her rescue operation and were in much better health, Myers said Monday.

On Tuesday, the sheriff's department seized a tractor from O'Brien's property and have used it to haul the hay to the horses from the barn, Myers said.

Eastern Regional Jail inmates in a "trustee" work release-style program, helped feed and walk the horses, as well as handle the donated feed and supplies, Myers said.

"It has been a total logistics nightmare," Myers said. "If it wasn't for them (the inmates), we'd be in pretty bad shape."

Anyone interested in adopting a horse or donating food for the animals may call Berkeley County Animal Control at 304-263-4729.

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