BY K. BURNELL EVANS
Citing malnourishment and a lack of medical care, authorities seized 60 equines Wednesday from a woman who once belonged to a regional nonprofit dedicated to rehabilitating needy horses.
Veterinarians brought in to assess the animals belonging to former Central Virginia Horse Rescue board member Sara Johnson were still combing through the herd on the Johnson's sprawling, 124-acre property on Thursday afternoon.
Law enforcement officers are keeping a 24-hour watch on the horses and donkeys as the investigation into mistreatment continues, said Dinwiddie's Chief Warden, Debbie Broughton. Dinwiddie does not have the resources to house this many seized animals, she said. For now, they will remain penned up at the Johnson's $866,000 estate in the 11000 block of White Oak Road, less than five miles from Animal Control.
Broughton said that some of the Johnsons' animals are extremely emaciated and score the worst possible mark on a nine-point scale used to gauge horse body condition and well-being. The entire herd is being treated for malnutrition and assessed for illnesses.
A woman who answered the Johnsons' home phone on Thursday declined to comment. The Johnsons will appear in Dinwiddie General District Court on Monday for a hearing related to the search and seizure, Broughton said.
Commonwealth's Attorney Lisa Caruso said that she could not discuss an ongoing investigation.
Cindy Smith, a founding member of the horse rescue group that Sara Johnson belonged to in 2010, said that she was shocked to learn of her friend's situation. She also said that she felt partly responsible for failing to intervene after Johnson sent her an e-mail in January seeking support.
"She said she had too many horses and needed some help," Smith said..." More