The Michigan Horse Welfare Coalition Thanks Officials, Reminds Citizens to Speak Up for Horses in Distress

The Michigan Horse Welfare Coalition (MHWC) wishes to extend its gratitude to law enforcement officials in Branch County for filing felony cruelty charges against the owner of horses on a farm in Ovid Township.

According to The Sturgis Journal, Branch County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Geoffrey Paul Eickmann, 33, on Thursday at his farm at 404 Warren Road in Ovid Township, and charged him with felony animal abuse. On Friday, authorities removed a dead horse and nine underfed horses (who will be provided with veterinary care) from Eickmann’s farm. He remains under a $25,000 bond in the Branch County Jail, with an arraignment in district court set for Monday, March 3.

The case was brought to the attention of authorities when neighbors noticed a herd of horses in a pasture who appeared to be starving. The horses had reportedly eaten all available vegetation along with wooden fence posts and wood in a barn on the property, and did not have drinkable water because a small heater in their water tub was not adequate to melt the snow in the extreme cold. The neighbors provided and water for the horses and provided photos of the scene to the Branch County Sheriff’s Department, which led to an investigation and the arrest of the owner of the horses.

“We are very encouraged that by pursuing an arrest and felony cruelty charges in this case, Branch County officials are making it clear that the neglect of any animals will not be tolerated in their jurisdiction,” said Jodi Louth, vice president of the Michigan Horse Welfare Coalition. “Horses are covered equally under our state’s animal cruelty statute just like any other animal, and you can’t neglect, abandon, or harm them any more than you can a cat or a dog.”

“The plight of these horses was brought to the attention of law enforcement officials only because of the compassion and vigilance of neighbors who had the courage to speak up,” said Jill Fritz, president of the Michigan Horse Welfare Coalition. “Particularly during this bitter cold, we must all be the voice for animals who can’t speak for themselves. If you think you see any animal suffering, hungry, or cold, please don’t hesitate to call law enforcement authorities right away. You could be saving a life.”

During harsh winter weather, horses need plenty of high-quality feed, adequate shelter, dry ground, and regular care to maintain them in good health. Information on the proper care and feeding of horses can be found at www.michiganhorsewelfare.org/partners.

The Michigan Horse Welfare Coalition urges horse owners to seek assistance through our hay bank as soon as problems are detected, rather than waiting until animals are neglected and suffering and law enforcement needs to intervene. Our coalition of horse rescue groups, equine care professionals, and individual horse owners is standing ready to provide assistance to horse owners facing a temporary financial hardship, and to help law enforcement agencies and horse rescue operations deal with large-scale cruelty and neglect cases. We can also help horse owners to effectively plan for the future. Those seeking assistance from the Michigan Horse Welfare Coalition’s hay bank can find eligibility guidelines and an application at www.michiganhorsewelfare.org/hay-bank/hay-bank-application, or by calling (517) 321-3683.

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