The public is responding to the plight of 30 neglected and malnourished horses found at two farms in Fresno County over the past week, contributing more than $2,000 in donations to provide feed and care for the animals.
But officials at the Central California Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said they remain in need of more donations of cash, hay, food and supplies to properly care for the horses. The sudden influx of large livestock has created a pressing need for portable corral fencing that has been part of an ongoing fundraising campaign as well.
"Our target for building the corral was $11,000, and that's just for the outside corral fence itself," said Beth Caffrey, the SPCA's humane education administrator. But, she added, that was for a much smaller corral to cope with only a handful of horses including four that were seized in October.
Caffrey said SPCA officials have yet to determine how much more space and corral fencing they will need to accommodate additional horses from the two neglect cases last week. So far, she said, the SPCA had raised $5,000 for the corral.
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Nineteen starving horses were found Tuesday on a ranch on East Shepherd Avenue, north of Clovis. One had to be euthanized because it was severely malnourished. The owner of the horses was arrested for suspicion of felony animal abuse and is free on bond.
On Friday, a second herd of hungry and dehydrated horses was discovered on a ranch on South Garfield Avenue near Riverdale. Officials said 14 horses were found at the ranch, and two were euthanized because of their poor condition. Four dead horses were also found on the ranch. The horses' owner is reportedly out of the country but could face arrest for animal cruelty, officials said.
In addition to the surge in cash donations, some donors have also provided hay to help feed the horses, Caffrey said. On Saturday, Caffrey said it can cost up to $10 per day to feed each horse. Among the other supplies needed to care for the horses are halters, ropes, and buckets, tubs and troughs for food and water.
On Friday, Caffrey suggested it could cost as much as $60 to $70 daily to feed each horse. She said the cost was so high because the afflicted animals have special nutritional needs and because many of the horses are wild and waste much of their feed.
Horse owners and livestock feed store operators, however, said the SPCA's figure was unrealistically high. Based on the current prices of hay and feed supplements, they said, it should cost $5 to $7 a day to feed a healthy adult horse. A malnourished horse would need some additional feed and care, they said, but nowhere near $60 or $70 a day.
Caffrey said Saturday that she re-estimated the feed cost after checking with horse experts.