By STEVE BROWN
GRAHAM, Wash. -- Pierce County officials are requesting donations to cover the cost of caring for 39 horses seized from a ranch near Graham.
The horses were found in poorly ventilated barns and outbuildings, with some stalls and aisles a foot deep in compacted manure and urine, according to a release from the county auditor.
The animals were thin and had untreated injuries, and because they were not used to being handled, loading them into trailers was difficult.
Veterinarian Tricia Arnold, of the Tacoma Equine Hospital, treated the animals. "It appears they'll all make it," she said. "Their body weight is not so critical as the environment they were in."
Arnold said she could not reveal where the animals are being kept.
The cost of medical care and rehabilitation will likely reach $40,000, county auditor Julie Anderson said.
Her office has already received two unsolicited donations of nearly 2 tons of hay.
"Responding to people's compassion and generosity is almost as challenging as rescuing the 39 horses," Anderson said. "We've been inundated with offers of help and people wanting to know how to help. We've had donation offers from farriers to feed stores and even an equine massage therapist.
"We were especially touched when a 4-H Club approached us, to have kids take this on as a community service project," she said.
Donations of wheelbarrows and muck rakes would also be appreciated, she said.
However, volunteers cannot handle or help with the care of the horses because they are evidence in an investigation. The owner of the horses faces charges of second-degree animal cruelty, a gross misdemeanor with penalties up to a year minus one day imprisonment in the county jail, a fine of not more than $5,000, or both.
The horses are not available for adoption because Pierce County does not own them. The owner has the option to surrender the horses to Pierce County, but has declined to do so, Anderson said. If the horses become available for adoption, her office will make applications available to the public.
People wanting to help can send donations to Pierce County Auditor's Office, 2401 South 35th St., Room 200, Tacoma, WA 98409.
Donors will receive an acknowledgment letter with the county's tax-deductible information.