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Officials say dehydration likeliest cause in deaths of 10 horses

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Posted at 3:39 PM, Jul 19, 2014
and last updated 2014-07-19 19:29:20-04

MAGNA, Utah – Officials confirm 10 horses are dead in Magna from what appears to be dehydration.

The Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office and volunteers searched a field for hours Saturday, looking for more horses.

“The mounted posse team came out last night and conducted a search, but since we were fighting daylight the Sheriff asked us to come back out here this morning to do a more thorough search,” said Deputy Robert Burton of the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office.

The mounted posse searched three fields on horseback, but didn't find any more horses in distress.

Lisa Thurston, a neighbor, became concerned a few weeks ago when she noticed one horse acting strangely.

“He looked underweight for sure; you could definitely see the hip bones,” she said. “We decided maybe we should have someone come check it out.”

An investigator with the Humane Society checked it out and found an older horse in bad shape, but said the others appeared to be fine.

Other neighbors said they could smell the stink of the rotting carcasses days ago, but they thought it was just bad irrigation water.

“Any time the public sees a case where animals--be they dogs, cats, horses, livestock--in some sort of distress they should call,” said Mike Reberg, Division Director Salt Lake County Animal Services. “We will respond. We take these things very seriously.”

Investigators are waiting on a necropsy to figure out when and how the animals died.

Officials with Salt Lake County Animal Services said the cause of death is likely dehydration, but it could be something else.

“It could be a whole range of things. It could be a disease that struck the herd, we just don't know yet.”

If the necropsy shows the animals were neglected and left to dehydrate, the owners or employee charged with their care could face animal cruelty charges.