COLLETON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) -Sheriff's deputies, animal control officers and volunteers converged on the Gift Horse Bible Camp near Cottageville Tuesday morning. It didn't take them long to find obvious signs the horses were malnourished. Ribs were sticking out of some of the animals.
The man in charge of the horses says he is not starving them. "No sir, no sir. We feed them everyday. They've been fed everyday since they've been here," said Gift Horse Bible Camp Director Eddie Ackerman.
After getting complaints that the horses looked too thin, they got a judge to sign an order allowing them to take all 46 of them. "I know they look like they've been starved to death, but they haven't been," Ackerman said. "And I have the records of oats that's fed to them to prove that, you know."
Ackerman says he's tried to give the horses hay, oats and vitamins, but they still won't eat. "If you can see a horse with an 800 pound bale of hay in this field and and he's that thin and he can't go over there and eat, then something's wrong." Investigators are trying to find out exactly what's wrong. They are leaving no stone unturned, taking blood samples and testing the horses' drinking water.
Colleton County authorities say they don't have enough room to hold all of the horses, so they will keep six. The other 40 will be sent to Charleston. Ultimately it will be up to a judge to decide who gets custody of the animals.
"This thing right here is either going to make this ministry what we have started to do or it's gonna end it," Ackerman said. "It's not up to me. It's up to God and the people that see what's going on."
A hearing has been scheduled for May 12th to decide who gets custody of the horses.