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Most horses seized from rescue facility adopted

September 15, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD
  • People wanting to adopt a horse Wednesday morning stand in line to fill out their adoption applications before making their selection. The horses, seized last week from an equine rescue organization, were available for adoption free of charge at an event hosted by Berkeley County Animal Control.
Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- All but 12 of more than 50 horses seized last week from an equine rescue organization in Berkeley County were adopted Wednesday, according to Berkeley County Sheriff's Deputy Scott Myers.

The horses were available for adoption free of charge at an event hosted by Berkeley County Animal Control.

"Eighty percent of the (adopted) animals went to Berkeley County residents," Myers said.

The Berkeley County Sheriff's Department is investigating conditions at Hidden Meadows Equine Rescue Inc., where the animals were seized Saturday.

At least 18 of the horses removed from the facility were deemed medically fit by veterinarian Christine F. Bridges for release to a new home, according to Myers.

Most of the remaining horses that were removed from the facility at 227 Edward Drive should be medically cleared for release to a new home within the next four weeks, said Bridges, who was retained by the county to care for the horses.

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Seven horses that are individually penned at a farm that Berkeley County Animal Control officials are using off Myers Bridge Road have moderate to severe medical conditions that could delay their release beyond the four-week period, Bridges said.

Authorities seized the horses and two young cows after they were found with little to eat and no water, according to police. The operator of the horse-rescue facility, Mary O'Brien, has not been charged, but the case remains under investigation, police said.

No telephone listing to reach O'Brien for comment could be found.

At the adoption event Wednesday morning, more than 30 people interested in the horses filled out required paperwork for an opportunity to take the animals home, according to volunteers helping with the event.

Martinsburg area resident Jill Trotter said her 11-year-old daughter, Arianna, had been raising money through bake sales and other fundraisers for several months before the seizure to adopt a horse from Hidden Meadows.

"I told her on the way over -- keep that money," Trotter said laughing.

While they didn't see the horse they had previously picked out at Hidden Meadows, Trotter's daughter had a big smile on her face while petting an 18-month-old bay paint colt that her mother said would give their miniature horse, Sweet Pea, some company at their home along Paynes Ford Road.

Erik Stottlemyer of Clear Spring, Md., said he and his wife, Celeste, were interested in possibly adopting a horse as a way to help.

Stottlemyer said his sister recently was thrown from a horse while riding and they were looking for another horse that was more tame.

Individuals who were interested in the same horse on Wednesday selected numbers from a hat to decide who would have the opportunity to take the animal home.

The adoptions were contingent upon final approval by Berkeley County Animal Control and individuals who receive a horse will receive a follow-up visit to ensure the animal is receiving adequate care, Myers said Tuesday.

Reports of the horses' starved conditions prompted an outpouring of donations that continued Wednesday, and Animal Control Officer Erin Webber said the hay and grain that has been donated has kept the county's expenses, at least for feed, to a minimum.

On Wednesday, Ron Wood of Ijamsville, Md., delivered 14 round bales of hay donated by Kim Taylor of Hyattsville, Md., on a flatbed trailer and brought another bale in the bed of his truck.

Carole Henry, representing the Henry Arena, said the board of directors that runs an equestrian venue at Poor House Farm Park decided to donate more than 30 bags of bedding for the horses as a way to give back to the community, which helped the organization establish the arena in 2007.

Officials revised the number of horses that were seized, and on Wednesday gave numbers ranging from 51 to 53.

Myers, the deputy investigating the case, said Monday that seven horses died last week at Hidden Meadows and another had to be put down Friday after it was found dying there.

Two young cows that were seized from Hidden Meadows were adopted as pets, Webber said.

Lemaster is asking anyone with information on the Hidden Meadows case to contact Myers at 304-267-7000.

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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