Police Searching For Man They Believe Neglected 37 Horses

By Laura Donaldson

June 18, 2010 Updated Nov 23, 2013 at 3:14 PM EDT

DECATUR, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) - Police are searching for an Adams County man whom they believe neglected nearly 40 horses on his property.

The Adams County prosecutor has filed one charge of cruelty to animals against Rick Hill of Decatur.

A local veterinarian says the safety and well being of some of Hill's 37 horses was in jeopardy.

Officials with the Adams County Sheriff's Department removed the horses from Hill's home just west of Decatur Thursday morning, and took them to the Adams County fairgrounds.

“I was kind of shocked,” said Terika Baluvelt a volunteer who is helping nurse the horses back to health. “You could see all their hip bones popping out and their ribs and stuff and it was pretty sad. It's pretty disappointing that somebody could do that to any animal or anything.”

According to court documents, neighbors complained the horses were too thin, and not getting proper food and water.

Documents also say a veterinarian, asked by police to participate in the investigation, found the safety and well being of 13 out of 37 horses was in jeopardy.

Investigators say they also found a large build up of algae plants, insects and hay debris in the horses’ drinking water.

Police say they've been keeping an eye on hill's farm for years, but the living environment wasn't poor enough to remove animals.

Investigators say not only have conditions not improved, but have continued to deteriorate .

"I just don't like to see an animal suffer or be in distress," said Chief Deputy Dave Gaunt with the Adams CountySheriff Department. "I don't like that, nobody does."

Court documents show Hill's neighbor has been taking care of the horses while Hill was away on business.

Officials say the neighbor told them Hill does not leave food for the horses, or money to help feed them, so he has been buying hay and grain for them.

A warrant for Hill's arrest is pending.

Veterinarians and volunteers will continue to work with the animals through the coming weeks, nursing them back to health.

Many community members have donated food, water, and their time to help the horses. Adams County Sheriff Charles Padgett, Jr. says despite all of the help and donations housing the horses will cost taxpayers money. He says he’s not sure how much at this time.

A judge will decide what will happen to the horses.

We’ll continue to bring you the latest on this story as it becomes available.

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