Horse farm investigated for potential animal cruelty

Krystle Wagner • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:30 PM

The Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department received a complaint after a neighbor observed horses standing in water at the farm in the 2800 block of Cleveland Street. The neighbor complained the animals appeared to be malnourished.

Ottawa County Administrator Al Vanderberg said the Sheriff’s Department is investigating the case and have turned over an initial report to the prosecutor’s office, which is reviewing potential animal cruelty or neglect charges.

Nobody was at the property — which includes a barn and paddock, but no house — on Tuesday.

Ottawa County records show the Coopersville property being connected to a Marne address. The phone number for the Marne address was disconnected.

A Facebook message was sent to one of the property owners on Tuesday. That message wasn’t returned by press time.

Vanderberg said a veterinarian examined the animals and dead horse last week, but was unable to determine a cause of death. He said some of the 18 horses are “aged.”

The Sheriff's Department is working with the owners of the horses to secure food, water and proper shelter while the investigation continues.

After photos spread quickly on social media networks Tuesday, Vanderberg said he received many phone calls about the case. Some were from out of state.

“One lady was sobbing so much she could hardly talk,” he said. “It definitely struck a cord with people.”

Pictures posted on Facebook show horses standing in water with their rib and hip bones protruding.

Joy Aten of Hudsonville said the Coopersville farm is in a state of decline with broken items scattered throughout the place. Aten said she spent a few hours on a neighboring farm on the day after her friend made the complaint last week with the Sheriff's Department.

“It was a mess,” she said.

Observing the farm along its fence line, Aten said she saw horses standing in muddy water. She said some horses had wet blankets draped over them and the lone paddock was empty of hay. Some trees on the property showed signs of animals chewing on them.

Aten, who has four horses of her own, said none of the horses she could see on the farm appeared healthy.

"It was very obvious the horses were in great need and truly neglected," she said. "I myself would use the word 'abused.'"

Coopersville resident Amy Perrin, who lives a few doors from the property under investigation, said the farm has “always been like that.”

“They need to find a new home for (the horses),” she said.

Read for yourself the sheriff's office press release by clicking on the PDF document below:

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