DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Horses that have nearly starved to death has become a problem, and experts say it will only get worse as the cold days of winter move in.
Many horse owners say they just can’t afford to feed the animals because of sky-high hay prices, which are elevated due to the drought in Colorado and across the nation.
Drought conditions this year range from dry to exceptional for nearly every state west of the Missisippi River. That means less hay has been grown and prices are at three times the normal level.
A mare and her 6-month-old baby named Jelly Bean were abused, neglected and seized by law enforcement last week. The foal was so weak she couldn’t stand up. Another three were also starving and seized last week. One owner indicated he was in financial crisis and unable to afford food.
The horses are now recovering at the Harmony Equine Center, a branch of the Dumb Friends League in Denver.
The concern is that many horses in Colorado will begin to starve this winter when there’s no more pasture grass for them to eat and their owners struggle to buy hay. Colorado growers were only able to harvest half, or less, of the hay they normally do. The shortage forced people to buy hay from other states.
Duane Adams investigates horse cruelty cases for the Dumb Friends League. He says they haven’t an increase in neglect cases. But what is on the rise is the number of horses actually seized in those cases.
“In the past, 99 percent of what we went out on we could resolve with education, talking with the owner, to resolve the issue,” Adams said. “What we’re seeing now is the horses are in worse condition and reasons beyond that we’re not able to rectify. So we have to intervene and in some cases remove the horse.”
It could take up to a year before some of the rescued starving horses to reach an ideal body weight. When they are healthy and trained they will be put up for adoption.
The Harmony Equine Center has also brought in about a dozen horses from the southern part of the state that were just turned loose.
Investigators tell horse owners to not let the situation get out of hand and plan ahead to find a home. There are several horse food banks and rescues that could provide options other than confiscation.
Visit the Dumb Friends League Harmony Equine Center webpage for information on how to help.