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Discovery of Dead Horse Leads To Arrest For Animal Abuse

CLOVERDALE (CBS SF) -- A sheriff's deputy arrested a Cloverdale man on suspicion of animal abuse after finding a dead horse and several emaciated horses on the man's property, sheriff's officials said.

Joseph Rafael, 65, was arrested at his property in the 25800 block of River Road and booked on suspicion of felony animal abuse, according to sheriff's officials. He has since been released on a $10,000 bond.

The case began when a neighbor who had been sporadically feeding the horses out of concern for their condition visited Rafael's property Wednesday, allegedly found the dead horse and called police.

The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office investigated and found that the dead horse was so emaciated, bone was showing through its skin, sheriff's officials said. Eleven other horses were on the property standing in knee-deep mud, according to sheriff's officials.

Neighbors told a sheriff's deputy that Rafael had a longtime pattern of underfeeding the horses, sheriff's officials said. An Animal Control officer photographed the horses and shared the photos with a veterinarian, who said the animals were emaciated and in immediate jeopardy.

Working with a nonprofit called C.H.A.N.G.E. -- Coins to Help Abandoned and Neglected Equines -- the deputy and Sonoma County Animal Control moved the 11 remaining horses to a shelter, according to sheriff's officials.

The dead horse was taken to UC Davis for a necropsy to determine the cause of death, sheriff's officials said.

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