Farmers Have Moral Obligation to Care for Animals; Team Assisting with Starved Horses Discovery

Special to HuntingtonNews.Net

The West Virginia Department of Agriculture (WVDA) has activated its homeland security incident management team to assess a report of multiple starved horses in Greenbrier County.

“State law gives the Department the duty to ensure that the carcasses of dead livestock are properly disposed of to protect the environment and the health of other animals,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Gus R. Douglass.

The team left WVDA headquarters at Guthrie early Thursday afternoon and will report back once they assess the situation, said Commissioner Douglass.

He said he was very disturbed by the discovery.

“It seems we’re seeing more of these incidents in recent years – particularly with horses – and I find that very distressing,” said Commissioner Douglass. “Farmers have a moral obligation to care for their animals, and the vast majority of them do so. But there are a few that, for whatever reason, fall short of those responsibilities.”

While the WVDA has broad authority when it comes to controlling infectious diseases in farm animals, state law gives county sheriffs or their designees authority over animal welfare issues.

“Some people believe that the Department of Agriculture is responsible for the welfare of farm animals, but that’s simply not the case. If we receive a report of distressed animals, we can enter a farm to see if the cause is disease related. If not, that’s where our authority ends,” said Commissioner Douglass.