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Record Number Of Horses Surrendered To MSPCA After Harsh Winter

METHUEN (CBS) - Melissa Ghareeb has taken care of surrendered horses for 13 years and this is about as bad as the equine manager has seen it.

"The harsh winter is causing this spike right now," she says.

Dense snowpack prevented lots of horses from grazing, which is not uncommon. But this year the relentless cold lasted longer than usual and many owners couldn't keep up with the cost of extra hay.

Ghareeb showed a crew from WBZ a 28-year-old horse named Buckwheat, whose elderly owners both came down with pneumonia this winter. The horse was largely left to fend for itself all winter.

"You can see all of his ribs, his spine protruding, his hips protruding," Ghareeb explains. "This harsh winter kind of did in some homes that were kind of limping along before and doing an OK job with their horses."

Flora, 29, is recuperating from a winter of malnourishment and possible mistreatment in the pen next door. And next to her there is a pair of ponies named Little Bit and Sweetie.

They belonged to a little boy in Central Massachusetts who was diagnosed with cancer this winter. His parents had to choose to part with the animals to focus more on their son.

So now, the ponies live at Nevins Farm in Methuen with so many other horses – all of whom have been surrendered and now need somewhere to go.

Nevins Farm, run by the MSPCA, has taken in 16 horses since the end of February, with another dozen or so set to arrive by early May. It is a record number of horses, and one that puts a tremendous strain on resources there, especially since the adoption season is a little bit slow to start this year.

"It's just overwhelming," says MSPCA community outreach director Julia Pesek.

Some horses need more rehabilitation and will spend the summer putting on lost weight and having their injuries tended to. But plenty of the animals are ready for foster homes - or permanent ones.

"We couldn't do what we're doing without the help of our community," Pesek offers. "So what I look at now is I'm hoping that community responds the same way and comes forward with adoptable homes for them."

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