Abused horses removed from Quantico farm

As officials await results of necropsies of 25 horses found dead on a Quantico farm, about 100 more of the animals are being removed from the Barbara and Paige Pilchard Farm on Cherry Walk Road and taken to rescues in nearby states, where they will receive veterinary care.

It will be a couple of months before it’s determined if charges will be brought against the Pilchards, said Wicomico County State’s Attorney Jamie Dykes.

“There will be no rush to judgment. Charging a crime is not something any of us takes lightly,” she said.

The Sheriff’s Office and Animal Control will continue investigating, Dykes said.

At a press conference with Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis, Dykes called the bodies and skeletons of horses discovered on the 150-acre farm on March 16 “horrific.”

“I would not allow my dog to walk through that property, let alone live on that property,” Lewis said at the Tuesday news conference, explaining conditions were deplorable, with horses forced to stand in 18 inches of manure and siding missing from the house that the animals might have eaten out of desperation.

The horses were living in conditions he called “inhumane, atrocious and despicable.”

Several windows and doors on the home are broken and there is jagged glass that could have presented dangers to livestock.

“I consider that neglect on the homeowners’ part and thought it was absolutely inhumane that those animals were exposed to that,” Lewis said.

“The death of these animals is tragic. This case has captured the nation’s attention from animal lovers just like us and those who want to help. It’s heartbreaking, to say the least. But one thing is abundantly clear. What may seem perfectly acceptable to some is hardly acceptable to others,” Lewis said.

Aaron Balsamo, Director of the Wicomico County Humane Society, who has been coordinating with the rescue organizations, told the Salisbury Independent he is experiencing “a mix of all emotions.”

“I went through different stages of being upset and being sad and being angry. You keep going back and forth. It’s been rough,” he said.

Local residents have been offering assistance. Balsamo said one man donated a truckload of hay and others can send monetary donations, with a note specifying it’s intended for the horses, to the Humane Society at 5130 Citation Drive, Salisbury, Md. 21804.

“I’m not expecting people to send thousands of dollars. Some people can donate only $5 and that’s it. That’s all right. It adds up,” he said.

The horses have been moved by volunteers who have taken two at a time to rescue sites, or up to 12, in a large trailer. Balsamo refused to take full credit for moving the horses to better conditions, saying he coordinated the networking, but others immediately offered help.

“This has been rough. I have a wife and four kids at home. I have to be at home for my family but I still have to take care of business,” he said.

“There have been some long days. A couple of days ago, I sat there putting my two-month-old baby to sleep, holding the baby, while I was on the telephone and working with all this. It’s a hard balance taking care of your family. And, I have a shelter to run,” he said.

He said other animals, such as cats, on the Pilchard farm have not been removed, but that those he saw did  not appear to be malnourished.

Lewis said during the past five years, deputies responded more than 80 times to complaints about horses belonging on the Pilchard farm wandering into the roadway and getting into neighbors’ flower beds and vegetable gardens.

“In each case, deputies contacted, or attempted to contact, the owners and re-secure the horses,” Lewis said.

Once, he said, the state’s attorney went there to be sure the animals were being treated humanely.

Four times, criminal citations were issued for illegal dumping, meaning horse feces in neighbors’ yards and in the roadway.

In April 2016, Mrs. Pilchard pled guilty to a charge and received a suspended 30-day sentence.


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