Case Snapshot
Case ID: 19109
Classification: Hoarding
Animal: horse
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Friday, Jan 6, 2012

County: Sabine

Disposition: Alleged
Case Images: 1 files available

Alleged: Charles Ford

The last 13 in what were dozens of malnourished racehorses seized by court order have been removed from the property of a man accused of not providing adequate care, leading to the deaths of perhaps 25.

But there's still plenty more work to do, Sabine Parish Humane Society President Larry Kelly said, as the task of feeding and sheltering the surviving horses continues, as does preparations for criminal prosecution of the man accused of allowing the animals' deterioration. And in addition to the horses, dogs, goats and hogs are being seized this week.

The Sabine Parish Sheriff's Office charged Charles Ford, 46, with cruelty to animals. He is free on $2,500 bond.

Ford has 15 days to post bond on all animals he wants to retain. But that bond is set at $1,500 per horse and $200 each on the smaller animals. If he follows through, the humane association must hold the animals 30 more days. Kelly is doubtful Ford will follow through.

"The guy we took them from will never get them back unless a judge says so, and I see that as much of a possibility as an ice rink in hell," Kelly said.

The rescue effort overwhelmed the small-staffed humane society, the only organized group in Sabine Parish. But with no land other than where the animal shelter sits on which to hold horses, the association reached out to a statewide horse rescue group. Other rescuers who will foster the horses came at their own expense, even some from out of state.

Monetary and hay donations started pouring in once the word got out. All money will be used to cover veterinary care and food expenses until the horses' fates are known.

"We are so grateful that so many good people and animal lovers have stepped up to help us with this massive effort to save these horses. LSU vet school has veterinarians and vet students here, and they're working long hours to provide medical treatment for sick and injured horses and moving some back to the vet school who need additional care," board member Mary Key Brocato said in an email to The Times of Shreveport.

Money came from as far away as Rhode Island. A Lake Charles man brought 22 1,000-pound rolls of hay. Then, there were the volunteers, many of whom worked from daylight to dark to help move the horses, clean barns and stalls, and distribute hay. Even parish jail inmates have been lending a hand, Brocato said.

Kelly still is trying to nail down exactly how many horses were at Ford's Hillcrest Farms southeast of Many. Ford was set up to train and breed thoroughbred horses. Many are owned by other people.

Records seized from the farm indicate 77 horses should have been on site. But that doesn't mean all are alive. Kelly said he's still uncertain exactly how many are deceased, but "25 is in the ballpark. We looked for graves, found carcasses. Some died of colic after we moved in."

Complaints about the horses' condition were reported several months ago to the humane association.

"We worked with him but received what we considered deceptive information because we didn't know everything that was going on," Kelly said.

Last Thursday, Kelly thought the situation had been worked out to provide feed for the animals.

"But we got out there and found we had not been told the truth," he said. "So we went to the judge Friday, gave him the evidence and seized the horses. We went out there to offer help, but he never reached out to ask for our help."

Although the horse seizure in Sabine is the largest, it's not the only one that's taken place in recent weeks in the region. Area law enforcement agencies are receiving increased numbers of horse and donkey complaints, ranging from mistreatment to running at large.

Officials speculate last year's extreme temperatures and drought that made hay sources scarce combined to make it financially taxing on large animal owners to adequately care for their stock.


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