Horses In Abuse Investigation Removed From Ranch

6 Horses Removed From Park County Ranch; Criminal Investigation Continues

Several horses at the center of an animal abuse investigation in Park County have been removed by the sheriff's office.

Park County Undersheriff Monte Gore said six horses were taken to an undisclosed location on Sunday and one horse died before it could be removed.

"The Sheriff’s Office felt this was necessary to avoid any complications that could arise and insure the safety of everyone involved," said Gore.

The remains of the horse that died will be taken to Colorado State University for a necropsy.

It is not clear when results will be made public.

Gore told CALL7 Investigators that the remaining horses are getting medical treatment and it is not known if their condition is because of illness or neglect.

One horses, "Little Big Man," was removed last week under a court order. He was taken from the ranch in northeast Park County and placed at the Aspen Creek Veterinarian Hospital in Conifer.

Veterinarians at the hospital in Conifer think the horse was anemic and wasn't getting proper nutrition. Blood work was done and it showed no signs of illness.

Little Big Man is making a recovery and is getting stronger, said one of the vets treating him.

The owner of the horses, Ron Swift, said botulism was suspected in making his horses ill, but sources close with the investigation believe the horses weren’t getting food and water.

Swift told CALL7 Investigator John Ferrugia that he disagreed with the vet's finding.

Botulism tests are being done on "Little Big Man" and results should be back by the end of the week.

Botulism Can Kill Horses

Botulism occurs when toxins are produced by bacterium that enters the horse's body through feed. The poisoning can lead to paralysis and then death.

Affected horses:

  • usually have muscle tremors.
  • may be so weak that they cannot stand up.
  • lose control of their tongue so it may hang from their mouth.
  • can't eat and they drool because they can't swallow.
  • may walk stiffly with a short stride or they may be weak and stumble. Their tail may lose its tone.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, horses that have botulism die because their respiratory muscles become paralyzed and the horse develops other illnesses because they're lying down and can't get up.

Signs of botulism develop within 7-10 days of eating the contaminated food.

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