Police investigate circumstances surrounding a horse death in Lancaster County

UPDATE: FOX43 has learned that Northwest Regional Police are awaiting forensic results before they determine if they will press charges against Champ's owners.

We also learned there were goats on the property at the time of the incident which are a part of the investigation.

Police say they will not release anything on the suspect(s) until they receive the forensic results.

WEST DONEGAL TOWNSHIP, LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. -- Police in Lancaster County are investigating what led up to a horse's death. The animal had to be put down after officials say it was starving and couldn't stand up.

It's sparking a conversation throughout the area about what it takes to care for a horse and what happens when people suspect they are neglected or abused.

We do have to warning: Some photos taken of Champ in his final moments could be considered disturbing.

"Head down, back down, and that was cause for concern," said Zach Nauss of West Donegal Township, Lancaster County.

Nauss found Champ on the ground at a neighbor's house. Nauss is a horse owner himself and knew something was up.

"I stopped, knocked on the door, nobody answered. I started yelling at the horse, clapping hands, just trying to get a reaction. Ultimately, he couldn't get his head up," explained Nauss.

Nauss says he called Northwest Regional Police and shared photos of Champ on Facebook; the post received more than 250 comments, and animal rescuers sent message after message asking how to help. About 10 people actually showed up and tried to save Champ.

"I grabbed my generator, a torpedo heater, blankets that we had in the house," explained Nauss.

Ultimately, Nauus says Champ had to be put down by a veterinarian who also arrived.

"He did have his last supper. We had him eat some grains, apples," added Nauss.

Nauss adds it appeared Champ's teeth were not properly cared for and Nauss believes it could have made it hard for the horse to eat.

Equine rescuers like Kelly Smith are now talking about how Champ's death could have been avoided.

"We've gotten horses in that condition as well," explained Smith, who is the founder of Omega Horse Rescue in York County. "We encourage people to call their local rescue. There are veterinarians out there who will help people who are struggling."

Smith says struggling horse owners can call feed stores too as many owners will donate feed for the horses.

"We have a starvation horse here right now, and when you watch them rebound and then, they fly a butterfly, they become beautiful again. It's an amazing process," explained Smith.

If you're concerned over an animal's wellbeing, Smith says it's always better to call the PSPCA and make a report sooner rather than later.

So far, charges have not been filed in Champ's case.

The Omega Horse Rescue cares for 28 horses. You can make a donation to the rescue here.

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