More than 35 horses, cows, bulls and goats rescued in near-starving condition Thursday from a Garrett County farm have been taken to farms in western Howard County. The horses, which were taken to Days End Rescue Farm in Woodbine, are straining the ability of that facility to care for them.
Days End took 26 horses, according to Sue Mitchell, development director for the mostly volunteer, 58-acre farm off Frederick Road, and a farm across the street took the cows, bulls and goats temporarily, she said.
"Their poor health ranges from underweight to severe emaciation," she said, with some horses so starved that their bodies had begun feeding on their bones for nourishment.
Mitchell said the animals began arriving at Days End at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, and the unloading continued until 1 a.m. Friday. All the animals survived the trip, but it will take months, she said, for them to be rehabilitated, if all survive. "Some of these horses are as bad as we see," she said, though Days End, which specializes in saving horses in dire need, has a 96 percent success rate, Mitchell added.
"There were more than 35 animals in one pasture," she said, so the grass was eaten quickly, and the animals then began competing for food. "That was a catastrophe," Mitchell said.
Garrett County animal control officials said they had been aware of problems at the farm for four years and had warned the operator repeatedly. "This man makes a living selling high-quality hay downstate," said Deb Clatterbuck, an investigator for the Garrett County Humane Society.
She said the society, which handles farm animal complaints in Garrett, got an anonymous call May 7 about the farm near Gorman, in the southern part of the county, and spent six hours roaming the farm looking for neglected animals. The owner could face up to 49 counts of animal neglect, she said, though charges won't be filed until the investigation is complete.
"There were 17 carcass piles of dead horses," she said, though it's still unknown how many animals died.
Although Days End officials are happy to help, Mitchell said the farm has never been so overcrowded, with more than 80 animals to care for. The farm needs more volunteers and donations to help cope with the influx. Ideally, Days End would have no more than 50 animals at one time, she said.
"No experience is needed" for those who want to help, she said. "We will train them."