RAVENOUS rats were munching through the decaying flesh of dead horses when animal welfare officials swooped on a stomach-churning scene of alleged animal cruelty in the Ballymoney area, it has emerged.
A cruelty investigation has been mounted after three horses were found dead upon which and dozens of others were living in “appalling” conditions in a rural part of Ballymoney Borough.
The USPCA is investigating a case of horse cruelty at a farm in the area and as the process of removing animals from the area was expected to take a number of days they did not wish to reveal the precise address to stop spectators turning up.
The animal welfare organisation was called in by the PSNI.
Three horses were found dead and nearly 40 others were living in appalling conditions.
In one barn, three horses were living and sleeping in about three inches of dirt and had no access to water or fresh hay.
In another barn, a horse was walking around knee-deep in faeces and muck.
Opposite it, in a separate enclosure, lay the corpse of another horse which the USPCA said may have died up to a week before officials arrived at the scene.
In another outbuilding were eight horses, many covered in muck. The colour of one horse could only be identified by its nose.
In another part of the farm, 20 horses grazed in a field and upon closer inspection, the USPCA found all of them were suffering from a lack of proper food and water.
Behind this field lay another grisly and horrific scene.
It was clear from the smell that clung to the air that what was inside was not good.
On the ground was a mound of hay and plastic. When it was removed, and the rats and mice had scurried away, two dead and rotting horses were uncovered.
The USPCA says they had been dead for about a month. One horse and two donkeys were removed from the farm by the USPCA. It was unable to remove anymore because the animals were too stressed.
But the organisation returned at the end of last week with extra help to remove the horses in the worst condition.
The owner had been given three days to comply with strict USPCA management guidelines.