Photos Courtesy of:
EAST AURORA, N.Y. - The Erie County SPCA has called in reinforcements after removing 73 horses, 53 cats, and 5 dogs from a property on Emery Road in the Town of Aurora last week. The seizure followed complaints that the animals were living in filthy conditions.
Tuesday, field investigators and a response team from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals arrived in Western New York to assist in caring for the horses. The group includes skilled horse handlers and staff for feeding, watering and cleaning for the next two to three weeks.
"Our goal is to help the SPCA Serving Erie County rehabilitate these horses, both physically and behaviorally," said Jeff Eyre, the ASPCA's Northeast Director of Field Investigations and Response.
The national organization is granting $10,000 towards the effort as well as reaching out to local vets to provide no-cost veterinary exams for the animals as well as a livestock trailer for transport.
The local SPCA will continue to accept donations from the community for the horses' on-going care and treatment. "Every single donor and volunteer is a partner in helping us save these animals," said spokesperson Gina Browning.
The rescue is the biggest and most costly effort involving large animals in the last four decades. The cats and dogs continue to be cared for at the SPCA's Tonawanda facility.
But perhaps just as startling as the sheer number of animals involved was the response, particularly of other horsemen, to the SPCA's call for help in removing and transporting the horses to a safe location where they are now housed under veterinary supervision.
Some, including Glenn Brown of Wilson, Niagara County, thought nothing of dropping what he was doing and putting 100 miles on his truck and trailer to assist in the rescue effort.
"That's just what you have to do ... you can't leave (the horses) like that. You get them out of there," Brown said.
Dave Harvey, who responded from Lewiston to transport seven of the animals agreed.
"They put a call out and we just try to do what we can do," Harvey told 2 On Your Side's Dave McKinley.
Brown's and Harvey's were among a steady stream of horse trailers laden with neglected animals which began arriving at a Niagara County facility (which the SPCA asked WGRZ-TV not to identify) Thrusday afternoon and which continued to roll in through dusk.
"There are people who came from as far as Rochester, Niagara Falls, Wilson, ...I'm even surprised. I didn't expect all these people coming to help us," said Browning.
A veterinarian at the scene said the horses should survive, but noted that most were "a couple hundred pounds" underweight, and that their coats were matted with feces from not having been out of their stables for perhaps months or longer.
Charges are pending against the owner of the animals whom Browning describes as having been cooperative with investigators.
"Rarely do the pet owners set out to maliciously hurt the animals. I can't speak to this case yet because the investigation is still underway, but in cases past these are people who just find themselves in over their heads and can't care for the number of animals they have."
According to Browning, tending to the needs of the animals taken in over the course of the next several weeks will be a costly endeavor for the SPCA.
"We're guessing about $30,000 just to provide the care for the horses. That doesn't include any kind of security that we will be hiring to monitor them, or any extra staff we may have to hire to care for them."
Browning, who has worked for the SPCA for nearly 20 years, says her time on the job hasn't made it any easier to digest what she has to witness in cases of animal neglect or cruelty.
"If we weren't going home half of the time crying over something, then we should just pack up our bags and leave the SPCA," said Browning, as she looked back toward the barns where the horses are now being housed.
"I mean you look in their eyes and you see their souls ...and you feel like they're looking at your soul right back," Browning said.