In an absolutely horrible story that has made national news, where deep in Appalachia’s coal country in a decommissioned strip mine site in Floyd County, Eastern Kentucky, the local sheriff and the head of an animal welfare group made a grisly discovery: 14 horses had been shot to death. And this in a state known for its champion thoroughbreds
According to authorities, some of the horses had gunshot wounds to the head and others had wounds to the heart and lung areas. A few of the horses were pregnant. Several of them belonged to a nearby resident, who reported that they had been killed, said the Floyd County sheriff, John P. Hunt, who did not name the owner. The others killed were free-roaming or feral horses.
The mass killing has drawn national attention, which investigators hoped would help lead to an arrest. They said they had several leads, with animal welfare groups contributing thousands of dollars for a reward. But to this point, no arrests have been made.
“I’m 30-plus years in law enforcement and I’ve never seen nothing like this,” Sheriff Hunt said on Friday. “It’s heartbreaking to everybody. We pride ourselves on horses in Kentucky.”
“I think somebody was far enough that they didn’t spook the horses and started shooting them one at a time,” he said.
Sheriff Hunt said the horses appeared to have been shot with a rifle in what he determined was a premeditated crime. He said the killings occurred sometime between December 13th to the 15th.
The horses’ bodies were spread out over a large area, and the remote location made it difficult to do a necropsy in a lab setting. Some of the horses did not die immediately and “bled out” from the gunshot wounds.
The nearest town to the abandoned strip mine site is Allen, Kentucky. It is about 200 miles east of Louisville, Kentucky, home of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby. Strip mining involves the removal of the top layer of rock or soil to reach the coal beneath it.
Sheriff Hunt said he would not be surprised if a single person killed the horses. The culprit could face first-degree animal cruelty charges, which is a misdemeanor, as well as criminal mischief charges. The charges would carry a maximum punishment of up to a year in prison, he added.
“It’s frustrating to know you could gun down 14 beautiful horses that meant something to somebody,” he said.
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