WARNING: CONTAINS DISTRESSING IMAGES
Around 21 horses have been found dead in woodland in Kentucky, US, amid claims that they were hunted down and shot.
Among the victims were a one-year-old foal, which was shot in the face, as well as two pregnant horses that suffered miscarriages and then died after they were shot at on an abandoned strip mine.
The Humane Society of the United States is offering a reward of $5,000 for anyone with information that leads to the arrest of those responsible, with animal rights organisations chipping in to help bring them to justice.
According to Floyd County Sheriff, John Hunt, the bodies of the animals were scattered around the area, some alone and some in groups.
Speaking to NPR, he said: “It’s a very cruel act of somebody who just apparently had nothing else to do or whatever.
“Just to go back on a strip job and shoot down horses who were – one of them obviously was feeding, had grass in its mouth.”
It was reported by another officer that a horse owner claimed as many as 21 of the animals had been killed, with five of theirs on the hill.
Rescue teams were out searching for the creatures, but the effort had to be called off after heavy rain had made it hard to get to the hillside.
Dumas Rescue is helping with the search, guiding volunteers and asking for donations.
The organisation posted on Facebook: “As many of you know we are part of a cruelty investigation of the murder of 15 free roaming horses. We are being contacted by wonderful people willing to donate to the reward resulting in the capture and conviction of the person or persons responsible.
“Please be patient with us as we work to figure out the best way to handle this legally. We are thankful for your support. At this time we are all reeling from the effects this horrendous scene has had on our group and the investigating officers. Please keep us in your prayers.”
In a later post, it commented: “As many of you know Dumas Rescue is working side by side with Floyd County Sheriff’s office in the investigation of the killing of the strip mine horses. The response across the country to this horrific situation has restored our faith in humanity and given Dumas volunteers the strength to keeping fighting to find the perpetrators.
“Many have offered to donate to increase the amount of reward and find the person/persons responsible. In order to maximise investigation efforts by law enforcement, Sheriff Hunt has asked Dumas to coordinate logistics to accept donations and hold them in a separate fund.”
Donations can be made here.