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Horses found starving in Stephens County

STEPHENS COUNTY, Okla_Nearly a dozen horses were seized and their owner arrested after they were found starving in a small pasture in Stephens County. Deputies were called to a rural area a  few miles southwest of the town of Comanche last week after a passerby called the sheriff's office and said several horses and a donkey looked to be without food and that their ribs and hip bones were sticking out.

Stephens County Sheriff Wayne McKinney said no excuse can justify the condition these animals were left in. He said normally a livestock deputy would give the owner time to provide the animals with the food and care needed. He said this time the deputy thought the animals were in such bad condition they had no choice but to take them immediately.

After over a year of drought Sheriff McKinney said his department has responded to several calls of animal cruelty charges that don't always turn out to be the case.

"Our farmers will say over the last couple of years our cattle have been stressed quite a bit, mine have."

When deputies were called to the small field they made a disturbing discovery.

"You look at everything in total, first of all, all the animals looked malnourished, not just one, but all of them, then he noticed there was no water, no hay, no feed and no grass on the ground, all animals looked bad and we had to take immediate action."

Pictures were taken after the horses were taken into custody, all of them found gaunt, bony, and weak. McKinney said after a veterinarian's evaluation, it was determined the animals were malnourished and weren't suffering from something beyond their owner's help.

"I've got ten horses I have one horse out of the 10 that is 29 years old and he don't look like he did when he was 12 and it's sad, but it's nature the way it happens."

It still hasn't been determined if Danyelle Saathoff intentionally neglected her animals. But intentional or not McKinney said the crime carries a steep punishment.

"People feel like if they're helping the animal and they can take them in, we have enough place, we can come up with the hay, but you know you take one, then tow, three, four, five, six, and you don't have the resources it can be overwhelming."

Saathoff was arrested on outstanding warrants including probation violation and bogus checks. The sheriff's department has turned the case of the animals, which appears to be animal cruelty, over to the district attorney.

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