A malnourished horse was found abandoned in a Riverside field on Mitchell Avenue and Valley Drive. And now two people are behind bars.
The stalls at the Riverside County Animal Shelter are filled with abused, under nourished and abandoned horses. The newest one arrived on Friday after a homeowner watched as two men on horseback led a third horse to a nearby river bottom.
"I immediately thought they were going to dump the horses because that has happened here several times over the past several years," said Riverside resident Will Turner.
Turner said he warned the men not to dump the horse and called 911. Riverside police and animal control officers quickly responded to the area using a helicopter and spotted the horse.
Police arrested Cresenciano Castro-Reyes and Juan Hildalgo Rodarte. The two are facing felony animal cruelty charges.
"What these gentlemen are suspected of doing is animal cruelty," said John Welsh from Riverside County Animal Control Services. "You cannot take a horse and dump it in an open field or riverbed. You can't do that, it's against the law."
In the last three years animal control officials said horse abandonment has gone up, leaving horses to the mercy of the environment they are left in. So far this year Riverside County Animal Control has taken in 42 horses, of which 28 were abandoned.
"He is an unfortunate victim of the times," said Dr. Allen Drusys, Riverside County Chief Veterinarian. "It's something we don't like to see but we are faced with increasing numbers."
Drusys said his preliminary check of the horse showed him to be about 20 years old. The animal is suffering from malnutrition, is blind in one eye and is lame in both front legs. Animal control is hoping the arrests will send a clear message to others.
"We're going to catch you," said Welsh. "We are going to go after you as much as we can that the law allows, and possibly that might send a ripple effect to people that are dumping horses."
Not every horse can be saved. Horses with too fragile health will have to be put down. But the ones that can be helped will be adopted out.