MADISON, Wis. - A Rock County horse owner is not facing charges after four of his horses were taken from his farm and one later died.
Rock County began an investigation into the farm near the state line on South County Road K in October.
A deputy responding to the home said the owners agreed to nurse the animals back to health at the time. The owners told the deputy the price of hay had increased and they were trying to buy more.
In November the animals were found in similarly bad of shape and were surrendered to a local horse rescue.
The owner is facing no consequences for their condition, including after one of the horses died Sunday.
DeeDee Golberg has been caring for the horses at Spirit Horse Equine Rescue since Nov. 15, when the owner agreed to surrender them after a choice from the sheriff's department.
"I had said name your price and basically he told me no," said Golberg. "I said, 'So they are priceless?' and he said, ‘Yes, they're my babies. I love them.' And we talked about how underweight they were and assured me he'd been feeding them and I said, 'Not enough.'"
She said on the body condition scale of 1-9, one of the horses shew would rank a .5. It was worse malnourishment she'd ever seen.
The horse they called Girlfriend was euthanized Sunday after she was too weak to stand up.
"On our initial visit, the deputy did believe there was an element of criminality in terms of caring for the animals," said Capt. Jude Maurer of the Rock County Sheriff's Department. "At the same time the degree to which resources are available [to the department] the best course the deputy felt was to put this person on notice."
The deputy gave the owner two options on a second meeting in November, after a neighbor reported continued neglect of the animals to the rescue, and the rescue to the sheriff's department.
The owner was told to surrender the horses to the rescue or be arrested for animal neglect.
"We felt if we automatically went for a warrant and seized those animals as part of a crime, subsequently arresting [the owner], we as the Sheriff's Office in Rock County would not be in a position to care for those animals," said Maurer. "At the same time, we weren't just going to cast this away. We said to him we would send this to the District Attorney's office for his review."
The sheriff's office was informed this week that one of the horses had died, which would make any neglect charges a felony.
They said they contacted the DA's office to see where the case stood and whether a necropsy should be ordered. Maurer said he was informed the case was deemed "no action."
Golberg said that's unacceptable.
"I do feel that the general public, myself included, feels that these animals should have someone to speak for them," said Golberg.
She said she's not only fighting for these horses lives, but for justice, and has started a petition to try to change the DA's mind.
"We can at least try to send that message that if you do this with animals there will be some kind of consequence," said Golberg.
Rock County District Attorney David O'Leary did not return calls from WISC-TV Friday.
Maurer said the DA's office told him that because the owner had surrendered the animals, he felt the case did not need to go forward.
Maurer said they are remaining impartial on the DA's decision, but recommended felony charges to the DA after the horse ultimately died.
He added that if the department had the resources to care for surrendered animals, they would have arrested the owner in November.
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