AIKENSTANDARD.COM — OCT. 17, 2012 — Several horses coming from an alleged puppy mill situation slowly crept off a trailer and onto the soft pastures that they will call home for now.
Those nine horses, two that are pregnant, arrived at the Aiken Equine Rescue facility Tuesday morning from Columbia.
They quickly adjusted to their surroundings as they started munching grass and rolling playfully in the dirt.
“It's why I do it, it's why the volunteers do it,” said Aiken Equine Rescue's farm manager Jim Rhodes after unloading the horses. “It's not a job. It's a passion.”
Rhodes said he's noticed improvement in the horses' conditions since he first saw them before they were transported to Equicare Veterinary Associates in Columbia for initial care last month. The horses were treated for worms, vaccinated and received any other necessary care.
The horses came from the property of Callie Abel of Johnston, owner of the alleged puppy mill where 250 animals were seized on Sept. 11. The Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society of Charlotte assisted the Edgefield County Sheriff's Office with the case.
The Aiken Equine Rescue also took on 26 dogs, 12 ducks, three geese and two guineas from the case. The SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare also took in some of the animals.
Abel pled guilty to seven counts of ill treatment of animals later that month. As part of a plea agreement, she surrendered custody of the seized animals and was ordered to pay a $350 fine but is allowed to keep three house dogs and a parrot.
Abel said she has taken care of her animals and loved them immensely, stating that she had been breeding and showing dogs since 1983.
“Basically, I've been an animal lover all my life,” Abel said on Tuesday. “I live very, very frugally. I put all my money, all of my efforts, all of my energy into my animals.”
Officials have reported that the living conditions for the animals were not acceptable. Some of the dogs suffered from eye infections, skin irritations and dental problems. Many of the animals, including the horses, were also lacking socialization.
Rhodes said the horses were fed but it takes more than that to properly care for them.
These horses, which range from the ages of six months to 20 years, were not getting the proper hoof care and their manes were matted, he said.
Rhodes said this is a growing problem in this continuously shaky economy. He said actually buying a horse isn't always expensive but caring for them, in regards to both time and money, is something not everyone has a grasp of.
Now, these horses will receive proper grooming and get the interaction they need.
“This is an opportunity for them to have a better life,” Rhodes said. “We'd like to place them in a forever, loving home.”
Rhodes said Aiken Equine Rescue, a nonprofit organization, is always in need of donations of money, supplies or time to its cause. Rhodes took the opportunity to thank Banks Mill Feed and Aiken Saddlery for recent donations.
The horses are also looking for homes and will be at the rescue until they do.
For more information on these horses, donations and volunteering, visit www.aikenequinerescue.com or call 643-1850.