FREDERICK COUNTY, Md. (WJZ) -- A Pennsylvania man faces animal cruelty charges for the death of one of his horses in Frederick County.
But, as Derek Valcourt explains, it's what was discovered on the two properties he leased that has animal rescue groups so upset.
Animal groups helped rescue dozens of horses, but those horses are the lucky ones.
A kind of fungus called rain rot was on the back of one pregnant mare. That horse and 24 others were voluntarily surrendered to rescue groups now nursing them back to health. The horses' owner, Pennsylvania resident James Houseman, faces two animal cruelty charges after Frederick County Animal Control found one horse in desperate need of medical attention. It later died.
"The foals were really the ones that were in the worst condition," said Laurie Calhoun.
Calhoun runs a rescue group called the Foxie G Foundation that took in some of the sick horses. When she went looking for some of the unaccounted for horses on the two Frederick County properties Houseman had leased, she found multiple dead horses, many already decayed down to bones. Some were still rotting carcasses.
"I really didn't know what kind of person could do that to an animal and just leave them like that, like they were garbage," Calhoun said.
But there's nothing in the law to stop farm owners from leaving exposed carcasses on their property. Though Frederick County animal control officials say they're still investigating, there's little they can do about it for now.
"The longer an animal carcass is left to decompose, the harder it is to prove points with regards to animal neglect or animal cruelty," said Harold Domer, Frederick County Animal Control.
Meaning animal rescuers might never know how these horses died or what happened to many of the horses they believe Houseman owned but no one can account for.
As for James Houseman, he still faces those two animal cruelty charges. He's set to appear in court March 6.
Under Maryland law, animal cruelty is a misdemeanor. Each charge carries the possibility of up to 90 days in jail.
This year, Maryland lawmakers are being asked to pass Senate Bill 37, which would allow judges to force anyone convicted of animal cruelty to pay restitution to the rescue groups or veterinarians who help remove, rehabilitate and treat the neglected or abused animal.
Last year, Houseman was convicted on 14 counts of animal cruelty in Pennsylvania. For more on that case, click here.
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