(WMC) – An animal emergency services team is in Gates, Tenn. helping to rescue six horses that were found neglected on a farm.
'Horrendous' is the word rescuers are using to describe the condition the horses were found in last Friday. Lauderdale County's animal control officer says he began receiving complaints about the malnourished horses in mid-July.
The horses' bones can be seen clearly in photographs taken by rescuers.
"We were horrified when we saw these animals," said Justin L. Scally, national director of Humane Intervention and Emergency Services for American Human Association. "Some of these animals were literally at death's door, mere living, breathing skeletons."
The animal emergency services team with American Humane Association plans to work around the clock to nurse the horses back to health. According to Scally, their condition is critical.
Veterinary sources are scoring the horses' bodies as a "1" out of a possible "9."
In 2011, Tommy Willett gave James Mark Crook permission to keep the horses in his pasture on the condition that Crook care for the horses himself.
Willett said he tried caring for the horses because Crook had not done so. Willett said he and his wife repeatedly asked Crook to tend to the horses, but the only attempt Crook made to feed them was to bring one bale of hay to the pasture. The couple eventually sent a registered letter directing him to the move the horses from their property.
"The horses have not been fed properly, cared for properly for about the last six to seven months," Willette said. "You can't just go feed a horse that's been malnourished good food all the sudden, otherwise, they'll get colic and die."
In mid-July, Crook told a UT agriculture extension agent that he had fallen on hard times; he apologized for the condition of the horses. The agent told Crook to move the horses to an adequately-sized pasture and get them checked out by a veterinarian.
Crook is charged with six counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty. Bond is set at $3,000.