Sheriff: 7 horses found dead, 5 euthanized at Orange Co. farm

Sheriff: 7 horses found dead, 5 euthanized at Orange Co. farm

ORANGE, VA (WWBT) - The Orange County Sheriff's Office says seven horses were found dead during a search of an Orange County farm and five more were euthanized.

In all, more than 100 animals were surrendered by the property owner at Peaceable Farms on Liberty Mills Road in Somerset this week, including 71 horses, 28 cats and seven dogs, Sheriff Mark Amos said. Investigators seized ten more horses on Wednesday, when the owner refused to surrender them. There are still 18 more horses, two donkeys, a bull and several cats in the owner's care, sheriffs said.

Sheriff investigators and veterinarians were on the property for three days evaluating every horse and several other animals on the property. Six different different rescue organizations have volunteered to help.

Complaints about Animal Control's handling of the case appear to be unfounded, according to sheriffs. The internal investigation was sparked by a social Media post claiming Animal Control did nothing after receiving a report of a dead horse in the field, however sheriffs believe that was not the case.

"Upon hearing this for the first time, I started investigating the story. A search of our database found no complaints were reported, I followed up with the contact on social media, she put me in contact with the neighbor who had reportedly made the claim," said Sheriff Amos. "He reported to me that he saw a 'downed' horse in the field, and notified the farm-workers that were at Peaceable Farm. He did not report it to Animal Control or the Sheriff's Office. More complaints are being  looked into in reference to the internal investigation."

Peaceable Farms advertises itself as a non-profit that rescues horses, but investigators say many animals had to get immediate care.

The sheriff say that's because  a Virginia code does not allow an animal to be seized, unless a vet says it is at death's door. 

According to a court affidavit, the sheriff's office was contacted on October 3 about the poor condition of the horses seen from the road.  Ten days later, photos were sent to deputies.  On October 17, several calls were made about the horses' welfare. Two days later, deputies started rescuing the animals.  The sheriff couldn't comment any further on that part of the investigation.

Rescue groups are currently seeking donations to help care for the animals.  The sheriff's office says they are putting together a list of groups that have helped.

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