An Animal Rescue Operation In Need of Rescuing
By Dan Breitwieser, WCJB TV 20 News.
County Animal Officers are caring for 126 horses, miniature horses and other animals in an emergency seizure Thursday.
The owner, Francine Derby, told officers she got in over her head with taking in animals. But what she didn't tell them is she has other properties with other animals that need looking after too. And neighbors say it's about time somebody did something.
It's probably been months since these miniature horses have eaten so good. Their ribs stick out of their sides, covered only by their shaggy winter coats, another sign of poor nutrition.
Tina Rhoads is a horse lover who has her own trail riding business up the road.
"It's disgusting, it's horrid," Rhoads says. "It's breaks your heart to see them. They are starving to death. They're uncared for."
Rhoads says she knows people that have driven by and called animal services after seeing the starving horses over the years. But nothing ever seemed to get done.
"The first time i seem them out here, i was cheering out the window of the truck as i drove by," says Rhoads. "It's a good feeling."
Lead investigator Dawn Stephen just started at a reorganized animal services department a month ago. She's not sure what happened to the other complaints--something that's for now in storage. But for now she's focused on caring for Francine Derby's animals. A vet says about 90-percent are in pretty bad shape.
"She could have called at any time and received assistance from the county," says Stephen. "Probably received assistance from citizens and volunteers and other rescue agencies."
Stephen says only yesterday she discovered another of Derby's property's home to more malnourished animals. But not in as bad of a shape as most of the horses on Derby's main property--98 miniatures and 9 others just on her 18-acre parcel alone.
"It's a good feeling," says Rhoads. "It's a good feeling. I just pray they go to a better place where they came from."
Stephen says Derby works at a stable herself. Officers say she was not at home when we were there.
Stephen knows about four properties that Derby owns, but thinks she may own as many as seven, maybe even more. For now, Derby doesn't face any criminal charges, but the sheriff's office will be presenting a case to the state attorney next week.
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