Animal cruelty cases on the rise

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It's just the latest case of animal abuse in our area and the district attorney's office said they are investigating a big jump in these types of cases.

Animal welfare groups are taking in more animals these days and the DA's office is prosecuting more neglectful owners.

Twenty-six miniature horses were taken from an owner who the SPCA said had other horses seized for neglect several years ago. Some of these horses were thin and walking on deformed hooves that had not been trimmed.

"It looks like a case of general neglect and possibly the person caring for the horses became overwhelmed with the sheer number of horses," said Houston SPCA Spokesperson Meera Nandlal.

It's the latest seizure of animals classified as underfed and uncared for. The most common category is not livestock, but domestic animals like dogs.

If their owners are suffering from the economic downturn, pets can feel it far more.

"We're getting neighbors calling on other neighbors about their pets looking emaciated. So we've noticed that starting last fall," said Asst. Harris County District Attorney Belinda Smith.

Those cases represent a fraction of the problem, but they also show a dramatic increase. In 2007, the Harris Co. DA's Office filed 130 cruelty cases. Last year, 150 cases were filed. In just the first four months of 2009, there have already been 97 cases filed.

The defendants are said to be offering similar explanations.

"What we're hearing from defense attorneys is that they don't have money to feed themselves so they're certainly not going to feed their pets. You know what, that's not an excuse," said Smith.

That is because there are rescue agencies that will take in adoptable pets whose owners can no longer care for them. However, the pet's survival often depends on finding a new owner or foster care. That's exactly what these ponies may soon need.

As in most suspected cruelty cases, a judge will take a look at the animals, look at the veterinary reports, and decide when and if the horses can go to new adoptive owners.

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