European members is before your eyes in black and white.
Animals seized from ranch near Pilot Point, Texas
PILOT POINT — The horses ran across the bare, arid ground Friday morning and up to the fence when they saw people standing near their empty food buckets. The dozens of Arabian horses were starving and emaciated, but they were being rescued by Denton County Sheriff’s Office deputies.
Seventeen other horses in stalls in the barn showed fewer signs of hope. Their feed buckets were long empty and there was no fresh water in sight. Standing in four to six inches of their own waste, avoiding pools of their own urine, they nevertheless put their muzzles up to the bars to be petted. Their ribs stood out, and their croups stood up in stark relief from their thin bodies.
These were the horses of Renazans Arabians. Sheriff’s deputies seized 76 of them from the ranch on Hub Clark Road and detained ranch owner Gordon Dennis Key. They obtained a warrant and planned to arrest him later Friday on a charge of cruelty to animals.
That charge is a Class A misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of a year in jail and a possible fine of up to $4,000.
“We had a call yesterday from someone who saw the ‘for sale’ sign in front and drove in to look at the place,” said Patrol Capt. Mike Caley. “They saw the condition of some of the horses and called to report abuse. When we arrived, we found more in much worse condition than those in front.”
Deputies and volunteers rounded up the horses and placed them in trailers for transport to several locations to be held while deputies arranged to have them seen by veterinarians. Most of the horses have worms from eating grass contaminated with their own feces, Caley said.
They are starving but can’t be fed until they are treated because of dangers associated with eating while in poor condition.
“Our biggest concern is the hooves of the ones in the stables,” Caley said. “They have been standing in feces and urine for we don’t know how long, and it has softened their hooves. Infection enters horses through their hooves, and we won’t know until they are checked out what condition they are really in.”
Caley said the sheriff’s office will pay contractors to care for many of the animals and an equine humane association will care for others. If the horses are awarded to the county in a civil action, the horses will be put up for adoption, he said.
Key sat on a picnic table between the brick barn and his house while watching the operation unfold. At times he put his head in his hands, and at other times he watched intently.
“This is devastating,” he said. “I had a problem getting hay to the ones in the barn, but if you look at the ones outside, they’re not that bad. I can understand [the sheriff’s] position, but it is just not fair.”
The 43-acre horse ranch is for sale and is listed for nearly $1.7 million. It contains a “manager’s house” as well as the show barn and numerous pens and fenced areas. Hub Clark Road lies southwest of Pilot Point in the middle of Denton County’s horse country.
A Web site listing shows sleek, shining Arabians with carefully combed manes and tails. Such horses were not in sight Friday as the deputies and volunteers tried to herd the scared animals into trailers.
Caley said Key told deputies he could not afford to feed the horses and did not have time to clean out their stalls. He said Key said he owns the horses, but Caley thinks it is possible that most of the horses belong to people who have entrusted them for stud service or boarding and have no idea of their condition.
He said it would take many hours to get them all away from the ranch.
Meanwhile, the horses in the barn flinched at the bites of numerous flies, flicking their tangled manes and tails, and walked hopefully to the barred windows when someone approached.
And they waited.