MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Two of the ten emaciated horses recently rescued from a vacant field in a remote area of Southwest Miami-Dade have been put down. Of the eight surviving horses, one is seven months pregnant and it's not known yet whether she'll make it term which is 11 months.
The horses were found by a Miami Dade Police Agricultural officer on Friday.
According to the South Florida SPCA, when they arrived to the field, the stench was so bad, buzzards were circling the containers of "feed" left for the horses in an area known as "The 8.5."
Rotten tomatoes, lettuce, corn cobs and avocados mixed with packets of ketchup and mustard and other unidentifiable food waste, was all that the horses had to survive on.
An Arabian stallion, two Paso Finos, two Paints and five Quarter Horse/Quarter Horse types, most lame or crippled, were rescued and taken to the South Florida SPCA rescue ranch in Homestead.
Some of the animals appeared skeletal, thin skin wrapped tightly against ribs. Many had huge swaths of bare skin where healthy coat should be. Some were limping pathetically.
"I feel bad for the animals and I feel anger toward the people that allowed this to happen," said Dr. Zachary Franklin, a veterinarian working with the South Florida Society For the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
SPCA officials say that when the suffering animals were discovered, the smell of impending death was so heavy in the air that vultures were circling low above them.
"We don't ask why, you're never going to get an answer to that," said Laurie Waggoner of the South Florida SPCA. "All we can do is go in and see what we can do to make the situation better."
CBS4's Gary Nelson spoke with Jose Cueto, the owner of the property where the horses were found.
"I had no idea those horses were there," Cueto told CBS4. "They are not mine. I don't have any horses."
Animal rights activists say it is not unusual for squatters to put livestock on vacant, remote land that is rarely checked on by owners.
The SPCA's Dr. Franklin said there was some good news amid all of the suffering.
The surviving horses will recover pretty quickly. "In 30, 60 days, you'll see most of them looking pretty good," said Dr. Franklin.
Activists theorize the horses were intended to be slaughtered for their meat. Horse meat is a valuable delicacy in some South Florida culture.
The South Florida SPCA rescued nearly 100 neglected or abused horses in 2013. The overwhelming majority of them were nursed back to health by volunteers and the aid of monetary donations.
The organization has a budget of a half million dollars a year, and relies almost entirely on philanthropy to operate.
If you would like to help you can learn how, click here.
Just last week, 21 neglected horses were rescued from a Davie home after tips to police and the Peaceful Ridge Rescue group. Sixteen were taken take to Peaceful Ridge while the other four were taken to Pompano Beach.
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