In what a local veterinarian described as the "grimmest" animal abuse case he'd ever seen, eight horses were found dead of starvation in Trout Lake last week.
On Feb. 2, the Klickitat County Sheriff's Office (KCSO) received a report of two dead horses and another horse that appeared to be starving in Trout Lake at 18 Pine Flat Road.
Deputies and a detective from the sheriff's office responded to the address and discovered several dead horses. Two additional horses and a mule were discovered in what authorities termed a "life-threatening condition."
On Feb. 3, KCSO detectives executed a search warrant on the property. A total of eight deceased horse were discovered during the search.
Dr. Michael Foss of Alpine Veterinary Hospital in Hood River said he was called by the Klickitat County Sheriff's Office and requested to accompany law enforcement personnel to the site where the animals were discovered.
"The call described horses in pretty bad shape, so I took the trailer with me to Trout Lake," Foss explained. "We found horses still alive, and some that weren't. I loaded up the ones that were alive and took them back to the clinic in Hood River to basically save their lives."
The three remaining live animals were impounded from the property to receive necessary care.
Teri Desri Cooley, 38, was arrested at the time of the search. She was booked at the Klickitat County Jail and charged with 11 felony counts of alleged animal cruelty in the first degree.
According to Klickitat County Prosecuting Attorney Tim O'Neill, Cooley was released on her own recognizance on Feb. 4.
Cooley will be arraigned in Superior Court on Feb. 17. At that time she will enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. Cooley is being represented by Goldendale attorney Rich Hansen.
Cooley could not be reached for comment by press time on Tuesday.
Foss said his examination turned up no indication of any illness involved in the death of the horses.
"It was not disease, just starvation," he said. "I've seen abuse cases, but not to this degree. I have never seen this many deceased animals in one place in 20 years of working as a vet. It's the grimmest case I've ever dealt with."
Foss said there was no guarantee the remaining three horses would survive.
"It's not a simple matter of giving them food and they'll come back," he said. "It will take a week or longer to get them back. What I will do is get them over the hump. Then the county will decide where the horses will go for care once they are healthy enough to where they don't need intensive care."
Foss said he could not comment on how long the other horses had been deceased, citing the ongoing investigation. He said the deceased horses had all been mature animals, except for one young horse.
According to Foss, it could take weeks for a horse to starve to death.
"It probably takes 25-30 days to starve, if they start with reasonable body condition and average weather. Being cold and snowy maybe speeded that up. It's not a real exact science," he said.