Horses, goats rescued from dirt piles at Ohio Farm

More than two dozen horses, goats, dogs and cats are being treated and cared for by veterinarians after being rescued from a farm in Ashland County, Ohio.

Investigators removed the animals from a rural property after being alerted to an alleged case of abuse. Horses and goats were found in filthy stables, sometimes perched on dunghills several feet high.

The Ashland County Sheriff’s Office removed 16 horses, six goats and several dogs and cats from the area and immediately assessed their medical needs.

The horses and goats had overgrown hooves, which can affect their ability to walk and lead to other serious health problems. A mare was pacing around her pen with what appeared to be a broken eye. Another skinny mare was found lying on her side in the manure. She was having trouble walking when she was led out of her box by rescuers.

One goat had a horn that curled into the side of its head and very overgrown hooves. With so much manure in his stall, responders had difficulty opening the door to his enclosure to get him out of the stall.

Teams from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Humane Society of Ashland County, Days End Farm Horse Rescue and Happy Trails Farm Animal Sanctuary assisted in the operation.

“It’s like walking into an abandoned, forgotten barn, but beautiful creatures are trapped here. When you look at the accumulation of waste, one can only imagine how long these animals have suffered in these conditions,” said Mark Finneran, Ohio director of the Humane Society of the United States, in a statement. “We are grateful to the Ashland County Sheriff’s Office and everyone involved for stepping in to ensure these animals never have to live like this again.”

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Dirt, debris and cobwebs

Meredith Lee / HSUS

According to the Ashland Times-Gazette, law enforcement officials learned of the situation from an 911 call. The caller reported that horses were “standing in manure” and that their “hooves were up.”

Parts of a country road in Milton Township were closed for hours as emergency services worked to remove the animals from the property.

Video footage of the rescue shows so much of the barn covered in layers of dirt, debris and cobwebs. It took four rescuers to lead the weakened horse out of the stable, wobbling on shaky legs and badly overgrown hooves.

“It’s quite shocking to see the level of neglect and how long they must have been there for the feces to build up so badly,” Laura Koivula, director of animal crimes and investigations at HSUS, said in the video. “It looked really, really deserted except that there were animals living there.”

They are now being treated and cared for by a veterinarian.

Some online commenters blasted the owners, while others defended them, suggesting they were elderly and unable to provide proper care.

“It sounds like people have been trying to help them for several years but their help was unwanted and unwelcome. Others in the community had no idea the animals were there because it looked deserted,” said a commenter on an Ashland County Facebook page.

“These poor animals had no choice but to stand and lie in their own waste. Waste so high they had to pry open the doors to get some of the animals. They had no choice but to breathe the dust and cobwebs and debris into their lungs. Apparently they have not received veterinary care for many years.”