LANCASTER — The scene startled Rusty Lemley as she passed the home on Blue Grove Road in Lancaster. Lying in the mud between a fence and a home’s air conditioning unit was a full-grown horse — fully exposed to the triple-digit heat.
If not for his chest moving with each breath, Lemley might have assumed the horse was dead.
“There’s just nothing but a skeleton,” she said through tears. “That horse has suffered.”
The horse is owned by Alfred Edwards, who said he got "Sunny" about three years ago and was unsure of his age. He said the animal’s condition only deteriorated last month from injuries he received in an April tornado.
“He’s being fed. He can get up and walk, if he wants to,” Edwards told News 8, while admitting the horse likely needed medical care.
“I can’t afford to have done what he probably needs to have done to him,” Edwards conceded. “Four-hundred dollars to come out here and kill him — well, I give him a chance.”
The horse clearly had trouble lifting its head. He was so thin, his ribs were visible through the skin.
Neighbors said Sunny had been lying in roughly the same spot for weeks and, that countless calls for help went unanswered.
The City of Lancaster wasn’t able to verify those claims because of the holiday, and Edwards has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
“I needed to get this horse help,” said Lemley, who has worked with animal rescue groups in the past. “I wasn’t walking away from this horse.”
So she began calling different agencies. After her pleas, the Humane Society of North Texas arrived Monday afternoon with a trailer after Edwards agreed to surrender custody of Sunny.
“It wouldn’t have hurt (for the owner) to call a few days ago asking for help,” said Charles Thompson, an investigator with the animal welfare group. “It just went a little too far, I guess.”
Moving the horse was itself a difficult experience. Once on his feet, crews sprayed him down with a garden hose and began gently and silently trying to get him to move.
He struggled to walk, his legs seemingly locked in pain.
Supporting his backside, rescuers eventually ushered Sunny into the trailer.
“He’s not in the greatest of shape,” Thompson said. “We’re going to have a vet assess him.”
Even if Sunny can’t be saved, Rusty Lemley will be at peace.
“It suffered a great deal,” she said. “There needs to be more compassion.”
Late Monday night, the Humane Society's Facebook page said Sunny was comfortable and surrounded by people who care for and love him, but added he was "most likely" not going to survive his ordeal.