- Dead piglets and chickens in various states of decomposition.
- Hogs standing in 3 feet of their own feces and urine, feeding on the dead.
- Emaciated horses with open sores.
- No clean water.
- Horse skulls, jawbones and cow horns scattered across the filthy property.
That’s how PAWS described Fyre Branch Rescue on Saturday.
PAWS animal control officers descended on the small farm on Friday afternoon to confiscate 77 of the animals still alive. The owner, however, saved them some legal hassles by surrendering the animals to Alaqua Animal Refuge in Freeport after speaking with its founder and president, Laurie Hardwick Hood.
In all, 11 horses, 14 pigs, 47 birds, three dogs and two cats were saved. PAWS is pursuing neglect charges, according to a press release.
According to PAWS, the owner of the farm is a woman with the last name of LeBron, but she goes by various first name aliases. The only animal she refused to surrender was a horse named Joker. PAWS has the horse and will be going to court to battle for custody.
“She claims she is a ‘rescue’ and even peddles for donations, when her animals are living in squalor,” said PAWS animal control officer Katie Healey.
In November, Healey inspected the property and put the woman on a “care plan” to fix conditions that were not remotely as bad.
“There was just a steady decline,” Healey said. “Instead of taking my advice and running with it, she ran the opposite direction.”
In addition to housing and finding permanent homes for the animals, Hood is involved because one horse was originally from her refuge.
That horse’s name is “Brandy” because it had brands all over it. Brandy was adopted out to a horse trainer last summer and as it turns out, he sold the horse to Fyre Branch Rescue.
Legally, the horse still belongs to Alaqua. According to their contract, the adopter doesn’t own the horse for a year. That is to prevent adopters from “flipping” them, meaning getting a horse at little expense, then selling them for a high price.
“It was an honor to work with the team at PAWS on this case. They did whatever it took to ensure that no animal was left behind, despite unimaginable conditions,” Hood said. “It was all in the name of helping animals who could not help themselves, and it took teamwork and trust to accomplish it.”
PAWS is continuing its investigation to find out if the Fyre Branch Rescue owner is involved in horse flipping.
According to PAWS, the pigs are being cared for at PAWS, while the other animals are at Alaqua. Donations are appreciated, as veterinary expenses, feed and staff time will be expensive and take months.