by: Greg Suskin Updated:
MARSHVILLE, N.C. - A neighbor on Faulks Church Road near Marshville was riding her horse when she spotted a sickly-looking animal standing among tall weeds.
The 2-year-old gelding looked to be hundreds of pounds under weight. That neighbor called Union County Animal Control and posted what she saw on Facebook, hoping the owner would come forward.
As of late Thursday, Animal Control officers are still looking for that person.
"This horse needs to be out of this situation right now," said Kelly Hodge, a horse owner herself who contacted Channel 9.
"They deserve so much more because horses have a heart of gold," she said.
Hodge believes the horse hasn't had any food in about six months. The pasture where it's living is covered in tall weeds and dirt. There's no food anywhere.
The animal's ribs, as well as shoulder and hip bones, are clearly visible, and it's back sunken in.
Neighbors said they never saw anyone stop to care for the animal, but they also rarely saw the horse. It has stayed away from the road, back off in the trees.
Deputy Trip Willis with Union County Animal Control said his office was first called about the malnourished horse Tuesday.
They visited the property owner's home that same day, and left information behind for them to call.
They heard from the family Wednesday, and learned they do not own the horse.
"They let a friend of a friend keep the horse there, but it was only supposed to be for a short time," Willis said. "Apparently the owner had fallen on hard times."
Willis said the owners of the house on the property do not even know the person who owns the horse. They have been leaving water out for the animal in buckets, but not food.
Animal Control is hoping to find and contact the owners as soon as possible to get the horse surrendered into their custody.
Willis said whether they find the owner, they are moving as quickly as possible. State law does not allow Animal Control to take possession of someone's property immediately, despite the poor condition of the horse.
Willis said once found, the owner could face charges.
"Possible abandonment charges, possible animal cruelty charges. That's just a few right off the bat. There's no telling what could happen," Willis said.
First, officers want to determine the health of the horse medically, as well as how it came to be left there, and its age and history.
For now, the agency is providing hay for the horse. A rescue group has already come forward and asked to care for the animal, once it's released to Animal Control.