Neglected horses rescued in sting operation in Enumclaw

KING COUNTY, Wash. — Dozens of neglected horses living in a muddy field without shelter were rescued Saturday during a King County Sheriff sting operation in Enumclaw.

Detectives have an arrest warrant for a woman they said is notorious for hoarding horses and neglecting them and now she's wanted in King County.

The woman runs a nonprofit horse rescue.

Law enforcement executed a search warrant and ordered the removal of a large herd of horses that were infected, struggled to walk in deep mud and struggled to stand, falling.

"Under law these are abandoned horses, so they're mine, which means, I'm asking you to take them," a detective said.

Detectives said the horses were brought to Enumclaw from around the country by a woman named Sharon Hunter, who claims to run a horse rescue, but after investigators saw muddy neglect, she's now wanted for investigation of animal cruelty.

Hunter already has an arrest warrant in Snohomish County for the same thing.

Saturday, volunteers worked to lure the horses with food.

"I don't know how the day's gonna finish but I'm glad this is moving," a volunteer said.

Another volunteer, a horse veterinarian involved in the sting asked KIRO 7 not to show her face but said, "Whoever owns these horses needs some mental health counseling."

Volunteers found worms veterinarians call equine internal parasites. KIRO 7 found out the infection means the worms get the horse's food before the horse can digest it.

"So instead of feeding the horse, you're feeding all the worms. And if you open them up there's all these egg sacks in here," the horse veterinarian said.

There were multiple pregnant mares in the herd and in the conditions, when mares give birth in a few months, veterinarians said the foals will die.

"Their feet are living in contaminated mud that's not just mud, it's feces and urine and rotten food," the veterinarian said.

"Sharon needs probably, psychological help," the owner of the property, Vance Sayers said.

Sayers said Hunter convinced him the horses would be on the property temporarily, and she would care for them.

When asked how he felt, Sayers said, "Relief, relief, in knowing the horses are going to go to a good home," Sayers said. "If you can't take care of an animal, you should not own one."

KIRO 7 learned the suspect has failed to appear in court, so there is a warrant out for her now.

The horses will be cared for by an operational organization called Save a Forgotten Equine.