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CRESWELL, Ore. -- Volunteers who took part in uncovering the massive case of horse neglect in Creswell are now sharing details about the conditions 61 horses were living in until they were seized in October 2019.
Gwenyth Davies will serve five years of probation after pleading guilty to 11 counts of second-degree animal neglect.
Volunteers with nonprofit Sound Equine Options assisted other agencies and organizations for around 12 hours as the horses and their conditions were cataloged for evidence in October.
Sound Equine Options executive director Kim Mosiman described what she saw as she entered a barn on Davies’ property.
“It was very dark, the smell of ammonia hit you very strong,” she said. “There was no food that I saw. There were several that some call walking skeletons.”
Investigators discovered four dead horses, stalls covered in manure and inadequate amounts of food. According to Mosiman, a veterinarian found that 37 horses were malnourished or starved. Three of those horses were later put down due to related complications.
"Just seeing them, it was awful. It was the worst thing I have ever seen, or smelled, to be honest," said volunteer Emily Grasty.
Mosiman said seeing the horses is shocking to many.
“I look at what they can become with proper care instead of how bad they are,” she said. “That's probably a survival mechanism, right?"
After the horses were removed from the property, they were brought to four locations once they were healthy enough to travel.
At those locations, rehabilitation efforts began. Mosiman said that simply feeding the horses prompted improvements over weeks and months. However, caring for the horses cost Sound Equine Options alone over $80,000.
As horses became healthy enough, they were returned to their owners. SEO could possibly take ownership of up to 15 horses, which they hope to find forever homes for.
"They will all end up with the lives they deserve. Especially with everything they've been through,” Mosiman said.
Grasty fostered two horses over the past months. She is planning to adopt one of them, named Ukelele.
"As a whole barn, not just my family, but my barn family, fell in complete love with her,” she said. "She still really questions if food will be in her stall when we bring her out to groom her. Building that trust has been a process, but she's getting better."
Though many of the horses are returning to loving homes and finding new ones, volunteers say some will be scarred for life by the experience.
Four horses are being held pending criminal charges against owners Erica and Raina Ott who lived on the same property as Davies.
Davies will be required to pay $49,557.36 in restitution, which will be divided between the Oregon Humane Society, Lane County and SEO.