It was the largest seizure of horses Pierce County Animal Control has ever undertaken, said county Auditor Julie Anderson, whose office oversees the department.
The horses, many of which are Arabians, appeared to be part of a breeding operation, Anderson said.
Animal control officers were preparing a possible criminal case against the animals’ owner, Anderson said. He could face multiple counts of second-degree animal cruelty, a gross misdemeanor, she said.
“The investigation is ongoing,” Anderson said.
Animal control officers, assisted by other agencies, served a search warrant at the ranch in the 30800 block of Meridian East “in response to another law enforcement agency’s concerns over the health of the horses,” according to the county.
Animal control officers who visited the property Tuesday found the horses living in poorly ventilated barns and outbuildings, Anderson said. Some stalls contained compacted manure and urine a foot thick, she said.
Many of the horses, including several stallions, were thin and had untreated injuries, Anderson said.
The animals are not used to being handled, and authorities had a difficult time getting them into trailers, she said.
“They’re very, very skittish,” Anderson said.
Animal control officers hoped to remove all 39 horse by the end of the day.
“We were able to get everything together very quickly to have the animals removed and receive the proper care they need,” said Brian Boman, the county’s animal control supervisor.
The horses were taken to a county park to be checked out by a veterinarian. Animal control officers arranged to have one ton of feed delivered to the park.
The animals’ owner was on site during the raid and has been “pretty cooperative and has obeyed all directives,” Anderson said.