Father, Son Charged Accused Mistreating Ross County Horses
His name is Payton, a horse who has suffered the cruelest of winters.
You can see his ribs are very prominent,” said Veterinarian Chris Beinlich of Woodland Run Equine Veterinary Facility. “Most horses, you should not see their backbone this prominent."
As emaciated as Payton is today, Beinlich says he has shown big improvement.
"He's probably 50 pounds heavier than when he came in 10 days ago."
Beinlich says Payton was near death when he was found at a Ross County home.
"We body-condition score from 1 to 9. And he was a 1, being the lowest you can be."
After being contacted by the Ross County Sheriff’s Office, Ohio SPCA investigators found Payton and four other horses at the home on Massieville Road.
“They were not as bad as Payton, but they were all extremely underweight," said Teresa Landon, Executive Director of the Ohio SPCA.
Floyd Hawk and his adult son Derek owned the horses. Both deny mistreating them.
“Never. I've never hurt a horse in my life. Never put a horse down in my life,” said Floyd Hawk.
Asked to explain Payton’s horrible condition, he said that was how his son found him.
He took us to a nearby property to show us what he was talking about.
"This is where that horse was that Derek got. Right here," he said.
We could see for ourselves, horse carcasses, rotting out in the open.
Both Floyd and Derek say they were trying to save Payton and the other horses from the same fate.
But records from the Ross County Sheriff's Office show deputies responded to the Hawks' property, twice finding the horses loose, and twice more without food or water.
"I wasn't about to let an animal suffer and die,” Derek Hawk said.
Asked to explain the charges against him, he said, “I did the best I could."
A neighbor backs them up.
"They were trying to save it,” said Lisa Schaeffer, who lives next to the property where the Hawks say they found Payton. “And those animals was over here for at least six months being mistreated and it was reported and nothing was done."
The SPCA says under Ohio law, good intentions just aren't enough.
"Basically what they did was take it from one location where it was starving…and moved it to another location at their own property and continued to starve it," said Landon.
The Hawks voluntarily turned Payton over to the SPCA.
They refused to surrender the other four horses, but say they've since given them away.
The SPCA says if the Hawks are found guilty of animal cruelty, a judge could order them to produce the other horses.
Payton is expected to make a full recovery.
As for the property where those dead horses were found, the Ross County Sheriff's Office says it is investigating.