The Long County Sheriff’s Office has charged an unlicensed stable operator and his assistant with animal cruelty and being party to the crime of animal cruelty after discovering a number of horses suffering from severe neglect at Briarwood Stables off Stafford Dairy Road over the weekend.
Briarwood Stables owner Jason Ashley of Long County and trainer Curtis Austell of St. Simons are accused of not providing 18 horses in their care with adequate food or water. They will appear in state court on the misdemeanor charges July 20, according to LCSO Deputy Mark Hall.
The sheriff’s office investigated the stables last weekend after receiving a telephoned tip from a concerned citizen, Hall said.
“The conditions were deplorable,” the deputy said. “Luckily we got out there in time so there were no deaths (of horses). If we had not intervened it would not have ended well.”
Six sheriff’s deputies, including Hall, helped feed and water the horses through the weekend until a Department of Agriculture equine inspector arrived at the stables on Monday, he said.
Hall said most of the horses boarded at Briarwood Stables since have been retrieved by their owners. Ashley voluntarily surrendered three of the horses he owned to the Georgia Department of Agriculture, Venessa Sims-Green, the department’s director of equine health, said.
She said Ashley was not licensed by them to operate a boarding facility. She said the department was contacted about the alleged abuse by the Long County Commission office.
“As soon as I called they were out here within an hour making their decisions on what to do,” Commission Chairman Bobby Walker said on Monday.
The stable owner’s impounded horses were taken to the department’s facility in Hawkinsville at Pulaski State Prison, where women inmates help care for rescued animals, Sims-Green said.
As of Tuesday, four horses remained at the stables, according to Sims-Green. The department’s equine inspector, Richard Allday, was scheduled to return to the stables mid-week to check on the remaining horses care and determine who owns them, Sims-Green said.
The department also could bring charges against Ashley and Austell if they are found to have violated the Humane Care for Equine Act, she said.
Sims-Green explained if a horse is examined by a veterinarian, found not to be properly fed or watered and fails a body-weight ranking test, that could be considered a violation of the equine act.
Sims-Green said there also didn’t appear to be enough water for the horses, especially given the area’s high summer temperatures.
Large horses can require up to 36 gallons a day, according to UC-Davis’ Center for Equine Health.
“It does take a lot of money to provide adequate care for horses,” Sims-Green said. She suggested potential horse owners first consider the expense of feeding and watering horses, veterinary care, ferrier services and boarding before they buy.
Hall said various people and businesses in the area have come forward to help the neglected horses after hearing about the situation at Briarwood. He said Tractor Supply of Jesup had donated feed for the horses.
Beth Dillard of Lucky 5 Ranch in Claxton told the Courier she and her family are willing to take in horses on an emergency basis, if necessary.
“We can help by providing board for their displaced equines,” Dillard said in an email. “Most importantly, we welcome unannounced visits for boarders so they can see that their horses are being well cared for. Owners are encouraged to visit us anytime without an appointment.”