VIDALIA, GA (WTOC) - A Vidalia horse owner is being charged with cruelty to animals after a joint investigation between the Toombs County Sheriff’s Office and the Georgia Department of Agriculture found that 15 of his 37 horses were malnourished, underweight, and in extremely poor health.
A call from a concerned person prompted the investigation. 66-year-old James Smith is being charged with 15 counts of cruelty to animals, which is a misdemeanor.
“We sent a deputy out there to check, and he quickly found that not only one horse, but there were several horses out there that were in poor health,” said Toombs County Sheriff, Alvie Kight. “He was feeding them hay. They had water and hay, but hay is not enough nutrients to keep them healthy.”
Blake Coleman works at a local veterinary office and has worked with horses for most of her life. She says she was shocked when she saw the pictures.
“My first thought was that there is no reason in this world that they should look like that. That is clearly a horse that has not been fed, has not been taken care of properly," Coleman said.
Coleman says horses need special care. Some horses may need more of something than another. She says for Smith to have over 30 horses, they most likely weren’t getting the specialized care they needed.
“Some may need more of a higher calorie intake diet. Some need higher fat. Some need more protein that others. That is obviously just a situation where they were getting nothing. Horses can’t just live on hay alone. That is their source of fiber, but they need more than just fiber, just like we need more than just carbs," Coleman said.
The 15 horses that were given to the state have since been relinquished to rescue services. The other 22 remain under Smith’s ownership as they were in good enough health. Sheriff Knight says that he has asked for Smith to relinquish those horses before he goes to court.
Smith is out on bond. He told the sheriff he will try to find homes for the other horses before his next court date.