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CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Canadian animal protection officials charged two men on Wednesday with a dozen counts of cruelty in a case in which 27 horses were found dead of starvation on a central Alberta ranch.
The grim discovery among a herd of about 100 live but malnourished and bony horses on a property near the small town of Andrew, Alberta, has shocked the Western Canadian province that is famous for its cowboy culture.
The Alberta Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said it charged Axel Hinz-Schleuter and Dale Huber with 12 counts of allowing animals to be in distress and failure to provide duties of care.
SPCA officers have seized 100 horses, 40 rabbits, 13 chickens, seven sheep and five goats. Besides the dead horses, officers also found carcasses of numerous rabbits, chickens and ducks.
A group of ranchers came forward on Tuesday to help care for the rescued horses, which will eventually be placed at farms in the area, SPCA Peace Officer Morris Airey said.
"We have ensured there will be a veterinarian in attendance to monitor the food intake, the nutritional requirements. Some of them that have been underfed for some time will obviously need some specialized attention as to the quality and quantity of feed they receive," Airey told CBC television.
The men face maximum penalties of C$20,000 ($20,200) in fines and bans on owning horses again. They are due in court next month.
The SPCA said Hinz-Schleuter was convicted under Alberta's Animal Protection Act three years ago and fined C$1,000. But the court did not issue an order prompting an inspection of the property.
Reporting by Jeffrey Jones; editing by Rob Wilson