CHATFIELD, Minn. (WCCO) -- One look at protruding ribs and emaciated bodies and it's hard to imagine the blatant abuse.
Just a week after the animals were rescued from a rural Chatfield farm on March 25th, they are slowly regaining health.
Fillmore County investigators were successful in getting the owner to relinquish the animals for placement by the Minnesota Hooved Animal Rescue.
Seven horses and a mule were transported to the Anoka Equine Veterinary Services for emergency care.
"Many of the horses that came into us are emaciated," veterinarian Dave Schwinghamer said.
Dr. Schwinghamer says for animals that have lost significant body weight, recovery will be slow. For those in the worst health, recovery will take months.
"They need to come back very slowly so organ function doesn't become overwhelmed," Schwinghamer said.
Even though a lone mule is well enough to leave his care, starvation's effects are cruel. As the mule was being adopted to another ranch it had a hard time walking.
Muscles deprived of nutrients for any length of time can cause a leg to lock up.
Of the 10 animals on the farm, three horses died of severe maltreatment and starvation.
"Really, really bad," said Drew Fitzpatrick.
She runs the nonprofit, Minnesota Hooved Animal Rescue. Fitzpatrick received the telephone call from a concerned observer who reported the neglect. When authorities arrived, they discovered two horses already dead.
"This mare, if we had not intervened as quickly as we were able to do, this mare would have been next," Fitzpatrick said.
It is hoped that through proper care and nutrition, the animals will recover until they can be adopted out.
In the meantime, donations to the Minnesota Hooved Animal Rescue will help offset the costs of food and care.
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