Twice in the last year animal control officers seized horses from a West Plains woman. Many were on the brink of starvation and several died. But the community is stepping up to give the remaining animals a home for the holidays.
In November, for the second time in six months, animal control officers seized horses from Janice Hickerson's West Plains property. It was also the second time one of her horses would die from starvation and the second time Hickerson would face felony animal cruelty charges.
"You know, we would like to know where she's at so we can have a conversation with her but at this time it doesn't appear that she wants this conversation," SCRAPS officer Nicole Montano said.
The last seizure of 63 horses showed just how bad things were for these animals.
"You can almost count the ribs on him," said Montano.
The outcome was grim to say the least.
"Starving itself is very painful. It's horrible," said Montano.
But the community rallied. HEART and the ASPCA stepped in to help and donations poured in.
"They've gained a ton of weight they're doing great. They've actually gained some muscle mass so they are doing well," said Montano.
And on a cold December morning, two more horses were given a second chance at life.
"It's hard to imagine, it really is," Mary Foutz said.
When she heard about the horse seizure, Nine Mile Falls resident Mary Foutz knew she could help and was only going to adopt one horse.
"His name was Fred and my favorite cousin's name is Fred. I named my first cat Fred when I was six," said Foutz.
But Nicole Montano convinced her to take another horse named Rico.
"She said, 'You know, you really could take two.' and I said to myself, 'I could take two,'" Foutz said.
As Fred and Rico familiarized themselves with their new homes, their pasture mates were eager to say hello. For these two it's a new home, this time with food, water, shelter, and a caring owner.
"It's because of the community and their generosity that have helped these horses get a home for the holiday," said Montano.
And a certainty about what lies ahead.
"This I think is the hopeful part of the whole story," said Foutz.
As for Janice Hickerson, who faces felony animal cruelty charges, she and her husband have not been located.