GRAND COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) - Officials investigating an animal neglect and cruelty case this week eventually executed a search warrant and took possession of 144 horses from the Snow Mountain Stables near Granby.
The horses, used for winter sleigh rides and summer trail rides, were described to CBS4 as severely malnourished.
Over the course of two days, the horses were taken to a Denver Dumb Friends League facility in Franktown, the Harmony Equine Center. Personnel from three counties and numerous organizations took part in the transport. The operation ended Wednesday night.
One horse was described by the Grand County Sheriff's Office as suffering from extreme emaciation and severe, untreated injuries. After assessment, that animal was judged to be unable to be transported to a rescue facility "without continued pain and suffering," the Grand County Sheriff's Office stated, and it was euthanized.
Dumb Friends League veterinarian Dr. Courtney Diehl evaluated all the horses on the property. Thirty eight were determined to be in adequate condition and were released back to the owner.
Snow Mountain Stables is located on land owned by YMCA of the Rockies. However, as the sheriff's office stated on Facebook, the stables "are operated through a private vendor under contract with the YMCA of the Rockies, and are not owned or operated by the YMCA of the Rockies."
YMCA of the Rockies Snow Mountain Ranch Marketing Manager Amy Wolf confirmed Thursday that the contract with the stables vendor has been terminated.
"We obviously support the sheriff's office," Wolf said by phone. She declined further comment out of concern for the sheriff's investigation.
A sole owner or caretaker of the animals has not been identified. According to the Colorado Secretary of State's online business records, Snow Mountain Stables filed for registration with the state in November 2019. It is a limited liability company with an unknown number of members.
"It is imperative that a comprehensive investigation into the allegations on all sides be allowed to transpire for the safety of the animals and to ensure that the facts of the case are preserved," the sheriff's office stated in a press release Friday. It referred to the case as a "very complex" investigation.
A spokesperson for the sheriff's office declined to clarify to CBS4 how the agency became aware of the condition of the animals. But the sheriff's office did state in its press release that all the horses were benefitting from additional assessments, and those suffering from serious conditions were receiving immediate veterinary care. Many of the horses, the office stated, "have a long road to recovery."
Dumb Friends League VP of Marketing and Development Laurie Peterson said the horses with the worst injuries were prioritized and evacuated from the property first.
"The horses are safe. They're in a really good place," Peterson said. "They were starving. They were very thirsty. (But) they're very kind. I got the opportunity to meet quite a few of them. We're going to make them fat and happy."
The sheriff's office was joined by personnel from the Colorado Humane Society (a division of the Dumb Friends League) and neighboring counties. A Facebook by the Gilpin County Sheriff's Office stated that its department sent six trucks and trailers to the scene, and that Jefferson County also sent resources.
Grand County Animal Control, the 14th Judicial District Attorney's Office, East Grand Fire Protection District, Grand Fire Protection District, and the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region also participated in the operation.
Snow Mountain Stables is located at 1101 County Road 53 in unincorporated Grand County.
The horses will remain in the custody of the Colorado Humane Society through the investigation and possibly the judicial process, the sheriff's office added. Any future placement or return of the animals is yet to be determined.
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