In a time when there seems to be so much negativity, it is like a breath of fresh air to see people working together for a common cause. Sunday afternoon Sept. 13, a number of Colleton County entities joined together to try and save a horse.
At approximately 3:30 p.m., Colleton County dispatch received an emergency call from the owners of a horse that had fallen in a two-foot ditch and could not get back up.
According to officials, the owners had rescued this horse just a few weeks ago and the horse had been previously abused and starved. The new owners were hoping that just feeding him a balanced diet would help him get healthier, but before a horse veterinarian could be contacted, the horse, already in a weakened state, fell into the ditch and couldn’t get his back legs situated to get back up.
The owners attempted to contact various agencies looking for help, but with no luck they finally resorted to calling 9-1-1, which in turn contacted Animal Services.
“There is someone on call at Animal Services for major emergencies 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Laura Clark, director of Animal Services. “But this is strictly for emergencies only, and this was certainly an emergency. Unfortunately, there are no resources or trained individuals available in this county as there are in others to lift a horse.”
After the call, Clark, along with some coworkers, sprang into action to assist the horse. Since 9-1-1 had been alerted, Fire-Rescue was also dispatched to the scene for precautions. Captain Janey Laney and husband Jeff were there to lend a hand to Animal Services.
“The first major issue was getting the horse some fluids,” said Clark. “We needed help to do that. He was dehydrated, so we contacted our vet, Dr. Lori Campbell, who came to see what she could do. Fire-Rescue also showed up, and when the IV catheter Dr. Campbell was using broke, paramedics quickly provided alternative tubing typically used for humans. In this instance, it worked. Ten bags of fluids were administered to the over-heated, exhausted horse.
By this time, calls for assistance had been sent throughout the county as family, friends and neighbors began to arrive to provide assistance. Justin Miller of Four J’s Ranch in Smoaks came to help and took charge, giving rescuers instructions on what to do and how to help.
The county’s fleet management department sent a truck with a boom arm to lift the horse. Finally, about midnight, everyone managed to get the horse up and taken to his pasture.
Unfortunately, though the horse was lifted and moved out of the ditch, further medical attention was needed. The vet discovered that the horse’s intestines had twisted from lying down in the ditch for so long. The owners could not afford the cost associated with an equestrian vet operating on the horse — an expense typically between $8,000 and $15,000 — and the surgeons capable of operating on this ailment are in North Carolina, so they surrendered the horse to the animal shelter. All day Monday the horse kept lying down as his condition seemed to worsen, and he had to be prompted to stand. Up until this time, the vet had been hopeful that the horse could recover.
On Monday Miller came back with heavy equipment to assist in any way he could. Finally, the horse was moved onto a trailer and taken to the shelter. After assessing the extreme age and number of ailments the horse had, it was determined that he was too sick to survive an operation. According to the vet, on a health scale of 1-10, the horse was at a 2. The prior damage to the horse was so extensive that he could not be rehabilitated. Sadly, the horse had to be euthanized, and he was buried in a beautiful spot on farmland donated by Justin Miller.
“This is another case where someone wanted to help and rescue a poor animal but didn’t understand the amount of care a horse needs, especially one that has been starved,” Clark said. “Medical attention is constantly needed in these cases to rehabilitate, and that can be very expensive. People can easily get in over their heads by adopting a horse. Horses actually take more care than the average pet, and certainly cost much more.
“This was a sad ending, and not what we hoped to see, but it was so heart-warming to see all of these people work together to save this animal and help end his suffering,” said Clark.