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VAN ZANDT COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - More than 50 horses were found dead and 87 animals were seized Tuesday from a property near Canton, Texas in Van Zandt County.
According to Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Texas, 70 horses, nine donkeys, six pigs and one longhorn were seized. The SPCA said the bodies of more than 50 horses were found in various states of decomposition.
The Van Zandt County Sheriff's Office and a Van Zandt County constable's office assisted with the seizure.
"One deceased horse was removed so that a necropsy can be performed to determine cause of death," the SPCA said in a statement, released Wednesday.
Half of the animals were found roaming on a large, fenced pasture on the property with little access to food or water, the organization said.
"The horses were so desperate for nourishment that they were eating the bark off of the trees, leaving some trees completely bare of bark. The pigs were confined to a small wire pen with no access to food," the statement noted. "The animals appear to have varying health issues, including malnourishment, open sores, nasal discharge, diarrhea, hair loss, overgrown and cracked hooves, fly bites and other injuries."
Initially, the organization received a complaint of animal cruelty on March 3.
"During that visit, the SPCA of Texas began working with the owners, educating them on the proper feeding and care of horses and entering into an agreement with them to bring the animals' conditions into compliance with Texas Health and Safety Code," the SPCA said.
The organization said it was unaware of the decomposed horses at that time.
An investigator again checked in on the animals on March 15 and March 28. On March 30, the SPCA received a complaint of more than 50 dead horses on the property and another visit was made to the property.
On April 3, law enforcement visited the property to gather evidence.
The pigs were transported to the SPCA of Texas' Russell H. Perry Animal Care Center in McKinney and the organization says the horses, donkeys and longhorn will be housed at an offsite care facility.
KLTV has reached out to the sheriff's office for more information on the case.
The SPCA says a custody hearing is set for 10 a.m. April 19 in Canton.