WNCN's Brandon Herring pets one of 54 horses involved in an investigation into possible neglect.
CLINTON, N.C. -
The Sampson County Sheriff's Office is investigating the possible neglect of 54 horses.
Sgt. Jessica Kittrell with the county's animal control said a deputy and a Clinton police officer discovered the horses last week when they responded to a report of horses that had gotten loose.
"[They were] underweight, malnourished, open wounds," explained Deputy Paul Edwards. "You could tell they'd been biting each other, dominated over food and stuff like that."
Kittrell said Tammie Montiel had moved the horses about 2 weeks ago to a property on Bob Rupert Drive in the Plain View area. Kittrell said the property is about 5 acres, and it does appear to be large enough for 54 horses.
Montiel agreed to surrender 13 horses immediately -- seven are in the care of Sampson County Animal Control. The United States Equine Rescue League took six other horses. Both the county and USERL have been working to get the horses adopted or in foster care.
The sheriff's office is giving Montiel only a few more days to make significant improvements. If progress is not seen, the sheriff's office will ask her to surrender the remain horses, including miniature horses and ponies. At that point, if Montiel does not surrender the animals, she could face charges and the horses would be seized and held in the county's custody until the court cases is over.
"Especially if this case took a turn and we had to seize the 41 remaining, we're certainly going to need that public support," Kittrell said.
The expense of feeding the horses and getting them veterinary care falls to the sheriff's office. Even if finding foster homes for the horses reduces some costs, Sheriff Jimmy Thornton said his office will need donations from the public to keep the costs from affecting other areas of operations.
"We're just not equipped to deal with equine like this, of this number," Thornton said. "We're going to make sure that everything is done for their benefit."
Anyone who would like to help the sheriff's office care for the horses can call the office at (910) 592-4141.
Kittrell said this case also serves as a reminder to other about caring for animals. First, she said people who feel they have become overwhelmed caring for their animals should contact others such as rescue groups or animal control for help. However, she said it is important to be careful when handing an animal over to a rescue operation. She said Montiel had accepted several horses as rescues, but she apparently wasn’t able to properly care for them. Kittrell said anyone giving an animal to a rescue operation should see the living environment first.
Brandon is a North Carolina native and UNC alum who lives in Fayetteville, and covers Cumberland County and the Sandhills. Returning to North Carolina to work as a journalist is a dream come true for Brandon.More>>