Authorities seized a dozen horses after the animals were found underfed and the owner didn't comply with orders to increase food rations.
The Lafayette County Sheriff's Office said the department received reports of neglect at a farm on Trotter Road in Wiota in mid-January and deputies began investigating and monitoring the area where horse owner, 55-year-old Sean Legault, of rural South Wayne, kept the animals.
On Feb. 10, a deputy found remains of a horse in the pasture. The sheriff's department took Legault into custody on charges of failing to properly dispose of an animal carcass.
Sheriff Scott Pedley said deputies continued to monitor horse feedings and told Legault to increase the amount of food the animals were provided.
The sheriff's department said during visits over Tuesday and Wednesday to the pasture where the horses were kept, deputies found the animals were not being fed adequate rations.
An equine veterinarian determined Wednesday that the horses were suffering from neglect. The sheriff's department obtained a warrant Wednesday and seized 11 of the horses in the late afternoon. One horse was not able to be subdued Wednesday, but officials were working Thursday to seize it and take it to the farm where the other animals are being cared for in Lafayette County.
Pedley said some of the horses that were seized were pregnant. He said some of the horses weighed half as much as they should when they were seized.
"When you look at the condition of these animals it's unacceptable," Pedley said. "This person was given all sorts of opportunities, advice from us, to do something with these animals."
Pedley said it will likely be costly to care for the seized horses and funds to do so are not in the sheriff's budget.
"The unfortunate thing is the taxpayer in this case, quite frankly, they're fleeced. They're fleeced by an irresponsible owner who doesn't step up to the plate and properly take care of this," Pedley said.
"Some may criticize my decision to seize these horses," Pedley said in a news release Thursday. "However, this matter is a criminal investigation and, as such, it is necessary that this investigation be dealt with thoroughly and these expenses be provided for so that the humane care of the horses in question can (and should) occur."
Pedley said the sheriff's department made arrangements to bury the horse that was found dead Feb. 10.
The Lafayette County District Attorney charged Legault with animal neglect in addition to failing to properly dispose of the animal carcass, according to the sheriff's department. Legault is due in Lafayette County Circuit Court on Monday.
Pedley said they have received donations, and would welcome more, to help care for the horses.