BONNEVILLE COUNTY, Idaho - Two citations have been issued in a case of suspected animal abuse and neglect in Bonneville County, the sheriff's office said Friday afternoon.
The 2 citations are for permitting animals to go without care, a misdemeanor that carries a $5,000 fine, one year in jail or both.
The case has caught the attention of the Idaho State Department of Agriculture.
Photos of nearly one dozen horses, some dead, some appearing malnourished, recently appeared online.
And Friday, a deputy state veterinarian checked in on them.
Horses are a dime a dozen in eastern Idaho, but that doesn't mean they go unnoticed.
Dozens of community members noticed these horses, owned by Sharon Wilson, and so did the state.
State Veterinarian Bill Barton said one of his deputy vets checked in on the horses Friday. He'll write a report on what he finds and the investigation will take some time to complete.
Dr. Jason Moulton is a vet that works with large animals. He said his clinic gets concerned calls about local horses all the time.
"Before we get really worried about it, we'll find out what their ages are and what their veterinary care is," said Moulton. "Sometimes the owners are doing everything that they can, but the horse is just old."
Moulton said often, people can't tell the difference between a malnourished horse and one who is just nearing the end of its life.
"They'll tend to have a sway back, they tend to lose some of their muscle mass and they can look malnourished or starved, even though they have plenty of hay available to them," said Moulton.
Moulton said the economy is a factor, too. In recent years, the price of hay has gone up, and some people just aren't able to care for their horses any longer.
"It's one of the animals that we all have a love for," he said. "It's kind of a symbol of the West. No one wants to see horses starved. No one wants to see any animals starve."
Once the state finishes its investigation it will provide a recommendation to the county.
If it determines the horses aren't being properly cared for. They'll recommend either seizing the horses or setting them up on a health management and feeding plan.
So what should people do who can't afford to feed their animals?
Right now, it costs about $150 to put a horse down, and if you can't afford hay, you probably can't afford that, either. It's becoming a national problem.