San Diego Humane Society officers are looking for financial help to feed and care for nearly 70 animals, most of them ponies, seized from a ranch where the animals were starving.
The raid at the Shadow Oaks ranch in Vista was the largest impounding of equine animals in at least 19 years, San Diego Humane Society spokeswoman Lani Kian said Friday. No physical abuse was apparent, she said.
Included among the animals taken during Thursday's raid were 49 ponies, 3 horses, 12 goats, 2 pigs, 2 burros and a llama. A donkey was destroyed Friday after a veterinarian determined the animal would be unable to recover, Kian said.
Kian said veterinarians believe the animals had not been fed in three to four months.
She said society officials would meet with prosecutors in the San Diego County district attorney's office Monday in an attempt to have the ranch caretaker, Linda Coulter, charged with animal cruelty. Each count carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The ranch specialized in miniature horses and is owned by Hershel and Dixie Blasingame of Paris, Ark. Coulter, who is Blasingame's daughter, refused comment on the raid.
Mrs. Blasingame expressed shock by the report of the animals' condition.
"It hit me like a bolt of lightning," she said in a telephone interview from a horse ranch in Paris. "I have an excellent reputation in the horse world."
Mrs. Blasingame said she and her husband have four ranches in three states, with a total of more than 100 horses. She said the animals at Shadow Oaks ranch were in good condition when she last visited in February.
The society, alerted to the problem by neighbors and visitors to the ranch, brought a veterinarian to Shadow Oaks earlier this week and picked up some of the horses.
"We're still footing the bill on their food and veterinarian care," Kian said. "We desperately need the support of people to help us. It costs $8 a day just for food for each horse."