Authorities are investigating after at least 15 horses were found fatally shot Tuesday near a strip mining site in Eastern Kentucky.
The horses were found along a strip job near the Pike and Floyd County line by U.S. Highway 23, WYMT reported.
Some of the horses were only one year old or younger, and some were pregnant, according to authorities, who added that it appears the horses were shot with a low-caliber rifle.
“This is very inhumane, and it’s a very cruel act of somebody who just apparently had nothing else to do or whatever, just to go back on a strip job and shoot down horses who were, one of them obviously was feeding, had grass in its mouth,” Floyd County Sheriff John Hunt told WYMT. “It looked like a battlefield for just horses.”
Hunt added that it was one of the worst cases of animal cruelty he has ever seen.
Hunt said authorities spent most of Tuesday morning trying to reach the strip mine location to confirm the number of horses that have been killed, but rainy weather made travel difficult up the hillside, according to the Floyd County Chronicle & Times.
Hunt also said most of the horses “were scattered out.”
“The site where these horses are located can only be accessed by ATV/UTV type vehicles so we are having to coordinate with individuals to help transport us back to the location,” Hunt said. “We will be announcing soon the total reward amount as it has increased substantially. It has been heartbreaking seeing these beautiful horses killed but it had equally been heartwarming to see all the concerns and see all the support in assisting in the investigation and to give the living horses a good home. Thank you to everyone.”
An initial $500 reward for information on the incident has grown to $15,000, with numerous animal rescue and welfare organizations along with individual donors contributing funds in hopes of finding answers.
Dumas Rescue, one of the local animal rescue groups helping out the sheriff’s office in the case, posted on its Facebook page Wednesday night that a PayPal fund has been set up for people who would like to help raise money for the reward.
“The response across the country to this horrific situation has restored our faith in humanity and given Dumas volunteers the strength to keeping fighting to find the perpetrators,” the group wrote in its post. “… If no arrest is made in 6 months the reward fund will be used to help other strip mine horses in need. We provide hay and salt all winter long to abandoned mine horses.”
The Kentucky Humane Society said in a statement that donors have helped contribute $2,500 to reward.
“The Kentucky Humane Society Equine CARE Program rescues, assists and advocates for horses in Eastern Kentucky, and we are sickened and outraged about what has happened,” said KHS President and CEO Lori Redmon.
In October, the humane society said it took in an “extremely emaciated horse” from the same herd that was attacked this week.
“Willow, as KHS named her, is recovering at Willow Hope Farm in Simpsonville, KHS’ new equine farm,” the humane socie said. “The farm was named in her honor.”
Dumas Rescue also posted an update Thursday that said a veterinarian who performed a field necropsy confirmed that gunshots officially caused the death of the horses.
Anyone with information about the fatal incident is asked to contact the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office at 606-886-6171.