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Could horses abandoned in Lancaster County be a sign of a larger problem in PA?

LANCASTER COUNTY — The Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office is assisting the Pennsylvania SPCA in its attempt to identify the person or persons who dropp...

LANCASTER COUNTY — The Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office is assisting the Pennsylvania SPCA in its attempt to identify the person or persons who dropped off two severely emaciated horses at New Holland Stables over the weekend.

The horses, whom caretakers have dubbed Thelma and Louise, were left at the stables on the 100 block of W. Fulton Street on Sunday or early Monday, according to authorities. They were discovered Monday morning by staff members, who contacted the SPCA. Louise was badly emaciated with her hips and ribs protruding, according to the DA’s office, which was also contacted after the horses were discovered.

The incident is starting a conversation about horse abuse cases and abandonment across the Commonwealth.

In December, FOX43 first reported on a horse, named Champ, that people tried to save in Lancaster County. It was found emaciated and unable to lift itself off the ground. Unfortunately, the horse did not survive. Police are still investigating how it got that way. So far, charges have not been filed.

Last month, 11 were rescued from a home in Juniata County, YDR reports. Police called several rescues in the area for help, including the Central PA Horse Rescue. One of those horses has reportedly died.

In late 2018, State Police in Gettysburg found a dead horse at property and another horse that was emaciated.

"Obviously, our hearts go out to them," said Jennifer Nields, a humane law enforcement officer with the PSPCA. "It's why we do this job."
Neilds is the humane officer investigating how the horses ended up at New Holland Stables in this condition. Within the past year alone, she says she has handled 7 cases of horse abuse throughout the area. Nields says that's not counting what 11 other colleagues have handled.
"Every case has its own individuality about it," she said. "Either it can be financial burdens of the owners, it can be simple lack of care, it can go into health conditions or age of the horses and everything like that."
At Noble Hill Horse Rescue in Colerain Township, Lancaster County, Founder Pat Astheimer says she has rescued over 400 horses in the past 20 years. Astheimer says she gets more calls from horse owners every week -- people asking to take in the ones that are older, sick, or injured, or a combination of all three.
"If a horse outlives its youthfulness, and they can't ride it any longer, then, they look for a place to take that horse, or they euthanize the horse or something," said Nields.
Nields says more people need help in the fall and winter months as the cost of caring for a horse multiplies. Ground and boarding are expensive.
"The pastures have gone down with grass and everything along those lines," explained Nields. "So a lot of the common factors we're seeing now is generally poor body condition and weight."
Astheimer suggests more help for horse owners who find themselves unable to care for their animal.

"A program set up for people at risk, you know, other than just being reported, because there is a stigma when you get reported, and it makes you feel defensive if you're not doing something right... but you can't afford to do it right. Then those people are likely not going to try to reach out to anybody," explained Astheimer.

While Astheimer says she receives more pleas for help in the fall and winter months, she adds, fortunately, the rescue receives more calls for potential adoptions in the spring and summer months.

Authorities are seeking information on who owned Thelma and Louise and dropped them off at the stable. Anyone who might have seen the horses prior to Monday is asked to contact either the Pennsylvania SPCA at (866) 601-7222 or cruelty@pspca.org, or call the district attorney’s office at (717) 299-8100 and ask for Det. Resh.