Twenty-one horses, three donkeys and a mule, all emaciated, were removed Monday from property northeast of Cleburne, authorities said.
The Humane Society of North Texas will house the animals temporarily, pending a custody hearing Feb. 13 in Cleburne, said Steve Shaw, a Johnson County sheriff’s detective.
Deputies got a tip about the property last summer and found the animals in bad condition, he said. The owner took steps to improve the animals’ condition, and the livestock gained weight, so the case was closed until neighbors complained recently to the Humane Society, Shaw said.
The Humane Society called the Sheriff’s Department, and when deputies returned last week, the animals were emaciated again.
“There was no hay and no edible forage,” Shaw said. “Not even nubs, just dirt. I saw one horse from when we were out there before and she was just bones, nothing but bones.”
Shaw said the horse was so anemic, the inside of its mouth was “creamy white” instead of pink. She and another horse were euthanized on site, Shaw said.
Shelly Meeks, the Humane Society’s adoption coordinator, said that if the organization wins custody, “the owner has 10 days to file appeal.” The horses won’t be available for adoption until the appeal process is complete and the animals are restored to health, Meeks said.