A horse on St. Helena Island that was reported as possibly abandoned died from old age rather than neglect, according to Beaufort County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Sgt. Robin McIntosh.
Beaufort County Sheriff's deputy Jen Reeves, part of the county's animal control unit, responded May 26 to complaints made by a group camping next to where the horse was kept. She wrote in her report that the animal "appeared emaciated... but did not appear to be in immediate distress."
An owner could not be found that day, and Reeves' report called for a follow up investigation. McIntosh said she does not know the date the horse died but said it was already deceased when its caretaker was reached.
The deputy's investigation, McIntosh said, verified the caretaker was working with a veterinarian to rehabilitate the animal, which was about 20 years old and had medical problems.
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Further information about the caretaker and veterinarian was not available Thursday.
McIntosh was able to confirm, however, that the investigation is complete and that criminal charges aren't being considered.
"It was not a case of abandonment or neglect," she said. "The condition of the horse was due to medical problems."
Dawn Acuff, one of the campers, said the group called animal control on May 24. She said it took two days for a deputy to respond. She said the deputy told her the case would be further investigated on May 29, after the Memorial Day weekend.
Acuff said Thursday that while the horse might have been old, she was still upset by the delay in responding.
"The horse literally was a walking skeleton," she said. "It was the saddest thing I've ever seen."
McIntosh said deputies acted responsibly.
"In cases in which an animal is determined to have been abandoned, it is taken to the (Beaufort County Animal) shelter for care and possible placement," she said. "However, this was not the case with this horse."