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Texas drought leaves heartbreaking toll of abandoned horses

Reuters reports from SAN ANTONIO:

The yearlong Texas drought is taking a heartbreaking toll on horses and donkeys, thousands of which have been abandoned by owners who can no longer afford the skyrocketing price of the hay needed to feed them.

Debbie Fincher / Safe Haven Equine Rescue via Reuters

An abandoned, malnourished horse is seen at the Safe Haven Equine Rescue in Gilmer, Texas, in this undated handout image obtained by Reuters on Dec. 3, 2011.

"We get 20 to 40 calls a week that horses are alongside the road and left; nobody's claimed them," Richard Fincher of Safe Haven Equine Rescue in Gilmer, in east Texas, told Reuters. "Sheriffs are calling us all the time."

Before this year, he would get more like three or four calls a week, he said.

The problem, according to Dennis Sigler, a horse specialist at Texas A&M University, is that the drought has dried up the hay fields, leaving horse owners having to pay double or triple the prices they are used to paying for hay, if they can find hay at all.

Horse abandonment is a crime, and state law requires abandoned horses to be held by the local sheriff's department for 18 days, Fincher said. After that, most are sold at a sale barn for whatever prices they can bring.

"People just can't afford to feed horses anymore," Fincher said. "They're too busy trying to feed themselves." Read the full story.

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