The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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February 10, 2011

Authorities make grisly discovery at Greenbrier farm

21 horses dead; vet believes they starved

Responding to an anonymous tip Wednesday, law enforcement officers discovered numerous dead horses at a Greenbrier County farm.

Standing at the Shawver’s Crossing site along U.S. 60 early Thursday morning, Sheriff James Childers said, “This is pitiful. This is awful.”

Childers said, as of 9 a.m., a veterinarian he called in had identified 21 dead animals. He said the vet believes the horses starved to death.

“There’s no evidence of feed anywhere on the farm that we’ve been yet,” Childers said. “The vet’s opinion is the animals died for lack of food.”

All of the animals were found in an open field on the 300-acre farm, which the sheriff said is owned by Grady Whitlock of Raleigh County.

“I’ve been on the phone with the owner in Beckley, and he’s not sure how many horses are on this farm; he owns two farms in Greenbrier County and a couple more in Raleigh County,” Childers said.

Childers said Whitlock’s best guess was that there were between 85 and 100 horses on the Shawver’s Crossing farm. The sheriff said Whitlock told him there were live horses on the farm Wednesday, but the search for them had yielded no results by early Thursday morning.

“If they don’t find more dead animals out here, I’ll be shocked,” Childers said.

He added that Whitlock said he was sending “someone with a dump truck” to collect all the carcasses.

Register-Herald attempts to reach Whitlock by phone Thursday morning were unsuccessful.

Because Whitlock told him a single individual is responsible for monitoring conditions at all four farms, Childers said he plans to secure access to the other Greenbrier County property Whitlock owns and to alert Raleigh County authorities to the possibility of similar conditions at farms located in that jurisdiction.

This is not the first time complaints have been made about conditions at Whitlock’s Shawver’s Crossing farm. In January 2006, The Register-Herald reported animal control officers were investigating a situation involving 60 miniature horses that were allegedly being neglected at the farm.

At that time, Whitlock denied owning the horses.

That incident was resolved when the unidentified owner of the animals was pressured under threat of legal action to move them out of the marshy area where they had been kept.

— E-mail: talvey@register-herald.com

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