PHOENIX -- We have all seen the heartbreaking and horrific stories; horses left in the blistering heat, often without food or water. Many times animals have died before help can arrive. But for those lucky enough to make it through until rescue crews arrive, there is an interesting stop on the road to recovery: jail.
Behind the chain link and razor wire at the Tower Jail in southwest Phoenix you expect to find criminals,
but as it turns out, this is also where some innocent victims end up as well.
“It is heartbreaking, they come in and they are starved to death,” Officer Roger Feld of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office said of the horses that come in. "Usually we are not sure whether they are going to make it or not going to make it.”
Equine vet Dr. Alana Hendrix said this is a safe haven for those animals.
“These are horses that all have come through Sheriff’s Department investigations of animal cruelty and neglect and so they have been surrendered or confiscated from their owners. And once they are here we feed them, rehabilitate them, and give them all the medical care that they need," Dr. Hendrix said
And the care theses animals need is extensive.
“So this horse when he came in he had such severe parasites or worms in his intestines, that they were consuming everything that he ate. and he was severely anemic,” Dr. Hendrix said of one animal. “If they don't have enough food they dig around on the ground, and when they do that they eat gravel, sand, dirt, rocks; and that creates a lot of colic problems. we see parasites, horses that have never been dewormed in their lives. We see a lot of foot problems as well.”
Under the care of Hedrix and sheriff's personnel these horses begin what will be a long road to recovery. Feld said it usually takes several months, while Dr. Hendrix added that it starts with small steps.
“We feed them small amounts frequently if we were to just feed them as much as they want to eat we would run into problems as well, their stomachs are so small. They get their teeth floated, they get vaccines, they get wormed," Dr. Hendrix stated
The horses also get extra care from inmates.
”So they do all the feeding, they do all the cleaning the stalls. Grooming the horses, bathing them," Dr. Hendrix said.
The pay off is healthy horses.
“So they get pretty happy when they are here," Dr. Hendrix added.
Feld said there's also a pay off for the people who work in the jail.
“It is pretty tough on us, but the bottom line is there is a lot of satisfaction when we do see them get better and find good homes," he remarked.
The care of the horses comes out of the Sheriff’s budget, but they rely heavily on donations of both money and supplies. The ultimate goal is to find good homes for these animals. You can visit the sheriff's website for more information. Click here for a look at some recent happenings at the MASH Unit