- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 11, 2014

NEWTON, Ala. (AP) - To look at Lexi, you wouldn’t guess she almost died from severe malnutrition in the summer of 2012.

“She was actually lying on the ground, pretty much was bones,” Lori Woodham of Wiregrass Horse Rescue & Sanctuary said.

The horse had not been fed for a long time.

“We were pretty much told she wasn’t going to make it,” Woodham said.

The neglected, abused and abandoned horses the rescue takes in go through a process. They are quarantined for 30 days and evaluated by a veterinarian. They receive vaccinations. Bloodwork is drawn to screen for disease. They are put on a strict diet, sometimes fed up to six times a day as they move toward a more normal once in the morning and once at night feeding schedule.

“When you let a horse get down to where they’re almost dead when they’ve been malnourished, there’s a lot that goes into just getting them to where they can eat,” she said.

The rescue works with local sheriff’s departments on equine abuse cases.

“They’ll go in and they’ll need somewhere for the horse to go,” she said. “The main problem in the past has been, ‘Well, we don’t have anywhere to take them.’ So that’s where we’re trying to come into play, so that we can help these animals that don’t have anywhere else to go.”

The rescue’s mission is to provide sanctuary for neglected, abused and abandoned horses, rehabilitate them physically and emotionally and find them caring homes.

It has applied for status as a tax-exempt nonprofit organization and purchased 60 acres on Bethlehem Road in Dothan for a permanent home. When the site opens later this year it will have about 20 acres of open pasture and 40 acres for trails.

In the meantime, 10 horses under the sanctuary’s care are being kept on leased property in Wicksburg. Another five horses are in foster care, where people who have land offer to keep them.

“They feed them and help them get fat and healthy,” Woodham said.

In most cases, owners don’t purposely abuse or neglect their animals. Sometimes horses are bought with the best of intentions, but economics and other situations make it difficult to provide proper care.

“When you start to get in a situation where you realize you’re not going to be able to take care of your animals, reach out to the humane societies, reach out to rescues,” Woodham said. “It might be a situation where maybe we can help out and find you some hay, or maybe we can help find another home. Don’t let the animal suffer. Ask for help.”

Houston County Sheriff’s Capt. Antonio Gonzalez said his department gets involved when there are any issues of animal abuse, but in many cases charges aren’t necessary.

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