By Doug Ireland
---- — DERRY — Five malnourished horses, including a newborn colt that later died, were removed from the garage of a local home because the owners could no longer care for them.
The New Hampshire Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is trying to nurse the emaciated equines back to health after they were rescued last week, according to Steve Sprowl.
Sprowl, the SPCA’s animal cruelty investigator, said a 5-year-old pony and her colt were taken from the home Oct. 23 after the organization was contacted by Derry Animal Control Officer Marlene Bishop.
The three other animals were surrendered voluntarily Friday after the newborn died Thursday morning, he said.
The owners, a couple whose names and address are not being released, kept the horses in a stall in their garage and did not provide a pasture. The animals were forced to graze on the front and back lawns, Sprowl said.
“These are just some poor people who got into a bad situation,” he said. “They are in the process of losing their home. They tried to take care of them. ... Both lost their jobs.”
Bishop said she couldn’t comment on the case and referred all questions to Derry police.
“It was pretty bad,” she said. “The animals are no longer at the residence, and that was the biggest concern.”
Bishop said she had been monitoring the horses for about a year after receiving a call from a concerned neighbor.
“It was just a case I’ve been keeping an eye on,” she said.
Derry Police Capt. Vern Thomas could not be reached yesterday for comment, but Sprowl said no charges will be filed against the owners because they cooperated with authorities.
Sprowl said the owners did not realize the pony was pregnant until after it gave birth and was too malnourished to nurse the colt.
“She went out to the garage and saw the baby,” Sprowl said. “It was running around and trying to eat. She didn’t know what to do and called the animal control officer.”
The mother and colt were surrendered to the SPCA and rushed to the New England Equine Medical Center in Dover, where the colt died. They required at least $1,500 in medical care, he said.
The mother and three other horses — an 11-year-old gelding, a 2-year-old mini-stallion and a 15-year-old roan gelding — are recovering at the SPCA barn in Stratham. A veterinarian was to evaluate them yesterday, Sprowl said.
The horses were expected to receive $200 to $300 worth of shots each, he said. The SPCA is seeking donations to help pay for their care. They will be put up for adoption once they recover, Sprowl said.
He said the nonprofit organization has handled 525 cases so far this year, including 69 involving horses. The others mostly involved dogs and cats, Sprowl said.
“We really can’t afford to do this,” he said. “In this case, we had to do this. The people weren’t going to have a place to live soon.”
While Sprowl said he has investigated more serious cases, some resulting in the discovery of dead horses, the Derry case was sad, nonetheless.
In recent years, Sprowl said, the number of incidents involving people who can longer afford to care for their animals has increased.
“It’s getting worse, the way the economy is,” he said. “That’s put a strain on people.”
He advised anyone is who is becoming overwhelmed by the pressures of caring for animals to seek help.
“Call someone. Don’t wait until it becomes a cruelty issue,” Sprowl said.
To donate to the SPCA, go to nhspca.org, call 603-772-2921, ext. 106, or send contributions to New Hampshire SPCA, PO Box 196, Stratham, NH 03885.