Dogs and cats are not the only animals that fall victim to neglect and abuse in Sussex County.

Dogs and cats are not the only animals that fall victim to neglect and abuse in Sussex County.

According to the Delaware Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a large group of neglected livestock was taken from a Seaford farm early this summer. Included in the group was three horses, four dogs, 10 goats and 30 pigs, all of which were not being cared for responsibly, said SPCA officials.

“Rescuing farm animals is a lesser known but highly important aspect of animal welfare and the work of [our organization],” said Al Mollica, executive director of the Delaware SPCA. “Much of this state is rural, and we find and prosecute cruelty cases in Sussex and New Castle counties.”

The horses – Cecilia, Tony and Maria – were underweight and in need of dental and farrier, or hoof, care as well as re-socialization training. SPCA officials said over the last few months, all three have regained their strength. Recently, Cecilia and Tony were place at Last Chance Ranch in Quakertown, Pa. where they will stay until a permanent home is found. Three-year-old Maria is still in need of a home.

The SPCA placed the rescued dogs in its Georgetown shelter and all of them have been adopted. Homes have also been found for the goats and pigs.

“We are thrilled that we have been able to find homes for nearly all the animals that we have rescued,” Mollica said. “But the challenge of finding safe environments for farm animals is significant.”

Amy Nicholson, the Sussex County cruelty investigator for the SPCA, said roughly 10 to 15 percent of the cases she handles are livestock, most of which are horses.

“The majority of complaints regarding horses are that they’re underfed and emaciated,” Nicholson said. “In other cases, it’s abandonment or a hoarding situation where the livestock gets entangled with the rest of the animals.”

Nicholson said horses are very difficult to transport and shelter.

“I have a pending court case against a Millsboro woman who didn’t get her animals the medical care they needed,” she said. “One of the horses is at least 31 years old and he’s not sturdy enough to transport to our Stanton shelter, where we have a horse paddock.”

Changing Fates Equine Rescue, based in Laurel, helps the SPCA place animals. Lisa Boyce, of Changing Fates, said not all the horses they rescue are victims of abuse or neglect. About half, she said, have been turned over by their owners due to financial problems.

“For most of them, all they need are up-to-date vaccinations and they need to gain weight,” Boyce said. “It’s mostly because their owners run into money problems and the first thing they do is stop taking care of their horse.”

As it stands, Changing Fates is housing 12 to 15 horses on site. The organization adopts out horses but retains ownership to ensure the animal is never given away, sold, bred or neglected. If the new owner can no longer take care of the horse, it goes back to Changing Fates, which has been in operation since 2005.

Chris Motoyoshi, a spokeswoman for the SPCA, said horses and other livestock animals are placed not only in rescues, but also at local homes and farms.

“It’s not easy to place the animals, and they really go to anyone who has ample space,” she said. “We have a great network within the rescue community that works together to help these animals find homes.”

Motoyoshi said almost all of the local organizations that rescue these animals, like the Delaware SPCA and Changing Fates Equine Rescue, run their organizations on donations.

“So if someone can’t take an animal, they can also help out by making a monetary donation,” she said.