GROVETOWN, GA (WFXG) - A horse farm has been the talk of Columbia County after it was reported for possible animal neglect and abuse. Concern from community members continues to grow, and they brought those concerns to the Board of Commissioners at their Tuesday night meeting on February 19. Commissioners were able to listen and take information from the few community members who voiced their concerns, however the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office is working the case, so any action that takes place on the farm at this time has to be cleared through them.
Animal services and a veterinarian, Dr. Margot Boerner, are checking on the animals every day and feeding and watering them. Dr. Boerner has been coming to the farm since Thursday, Feb. 14, when she was asked to come check the welfare of the animals inside. She said when she got there, it was immediately obvious that the living conditions were poor. Upon walking the grounds and seeing everything, she said, “There was not enough hay, and there was not enough water for horses that are confined to their stalls 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and there are hygiene problems out here.” She told FOX 54 reporter Lex Juarez that based on those factors of the horses living conditions, she believed the animals suffered some neglect.
Even though she believes there was some neglect, she says the situation is not as bad as some people have been led to believe by stories floating in the community. Dr. Boerner explained, “People are concerned, and we’d rather check than not check, but there were exaggerations that all of the horses were dying and all of them were dyer straights, and that there’s horses down that can’t get up, and most of that was not, fortunately, true.”
Dr. Boerner and animal services are only allowed on the grounds to care for the animals because of an Inspection and Maintenance Warrant seen on the fence outside of the farm. While photos of part of the warrant have been shown around the community, the rest of the warrant has not been. The second page explains exactly what the warrant means. It serves to allow the Sheriff’s Office, animal services and Dr. Boerner onto the property to take care of the animals for the time being. You can read the full warrant below:
Dr. Boerner’s notes on the conditions of the farm are on the document, and they were used to explain to a judge why the warrant was necessary. Despite those notes and a law cited on the first page, the sheriff’s office tells FOX 54 that as of right now, the poor living conditions do not rise to criminal charges against the owner. Dr. Boerner said, “I think that’s just that maybe they said they don’t have criminal charged yet, because they don’t know what they’re going to be, and I think there is a good chance that the law will change as a result of this.”
As for the horses, she confirmed that they are up in spirits already, after getting plenty of food and water the past few days. The doctor’s next concern is getting the horses moved to a new location. She said, “I’m sure these horses would appreciate getting to somewhere dryer, and that would take a lot of physical and mental stress off of them, and that property there is just not conducive to getting anything done that needs to be done.”
As of right now, the horses still belong to the owner. There will be a hearing, at which a judge will decide who will take care of the horses long term. The date for that hearing has not been set yet.
The Sheriff’s Office tells FOX 54 they are still investigating the case, and county leaders said they are using state laws for the investigation.