The following story is a first-person account of the rescue of 84 horses from a farm on Jim Cummings Highway written by Scotlund Haisley, senior Director of emergency services for The HSUS.
The light is beginning to fade here in Bradyville, Tenn., and our Animal Rescue Team is just removing the last horse from the 120-acre property. It has been a long day, but we have rescued 84 neglected horses, eight dogs, two goats and a dozen chickens from squalid conditions at a Cannon County farm.
The future looked bleak for these animals until the Cannon County Sheriff's Department reached out to our Tennessee state director for assistance late last week. Leighann McCollum wasted no time pulling in Emergency Services and Equine Protection to heed this desperate call for help.
Although we had not yet seen images from the scene, our team knew from the start that this would be a grisly operation. This case came to light after a group of local children playing in the woods found several dead horses near a stream. I cannot imagine the horror these children must have endured coming across such a disturbing scene.
Our team was no less sickened when we arrived on the property early Tuesday morning. We found Tennessee Walking Horses, Spotted Saddle Horses, quarter horses and other cross-breeds roaming the property and overcrowded in a dank barn. Almost all of the horses were shockingly thin — more like taut skin pulled over a skeletal frame than the robust, lively creatures they should have been. Many hung their heads in apparent weakness and stood motionless on thin, wobbly legs. Some of the stronger horses eagerly vacuumed down mounds of fresh hay that had been laid out by rescuers.
After a preliminary examination, the veterinarian on scene confirmed that these horses were in desperate need of veterinary care and proper nutrition. Many were suffering from internal parasites, overgrown hooves and other untreated ailments. After receiving this information, the sheriff moved to obtain a seizure warrant allowing us to remove all of the animals from the property.
I was relieved to hear that we had clearance to remove all of the animals. After seeing the horrific, near-death state of these animals, it would have broken my heart to leave any behind. As soon as a judge signed the warrant, we began loading up the horses in trailers generously donated by local equestrians and headed back to the emergency shelter set up at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds.
It was no easy task loading 84 sickly horses into trailers, but several were especially tough cases. One splashy black-and-white saddle horse was so weak that she collapsed in the field. I wasn't sure that she would make it back to the shelter. But, with gentle coaxing and some sweet treats to lure her along, she made her way into one of the first transports headed back to the fairgrounds.
Now, at the end of the day our rescue has just gained another victory. After discussing the issue with the sheriff's department, the property owner has decided to surrender all of the animals. This is a huge weight off of our shoulders, as custody will immediately be signed over to HSUS. We can now focus on stabilizing these horses and placing them with rescue groups in the area. This puts us one step closer to our final goal of finding responsible, loving homes for all of these formerly neglected animals.