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LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- Thousands of people drive along Interstate 64 in the heart of horse country in Woodford County. Several say they did not know about what was going on at one farm a mile before the rest area where several animals were found dead, some of them with just skeletal remains.
Dozens of animal carcasses were found on a farm in Woodford County, Ky. Officials say 16 horses, a donkey, several chickens, dogs, and cats were found in barn stalls and in trailers near Midway on Monday. The Woodford County Sheriff's office says some of the animals appear to have been dead for several months. Sheriff's deputies said the owner of those animals could have been trying to rescue some of them.
"It's sickening to hear about things like this," said Sarah Cahill who owns a nearby farm.
"That's part of the sickening thing about it is that we drive past here every day, that's unbelievable.
Animal Control officials say after an anonymous complaint, they performed a routine inspection.
"Initially there was nothing alarming at all, but we knew to continuously drive-by and check," said Jodi Mullins of Woodford County Animal Control.
After a few days of monitoring the animals on the property being leased by Cheryll Jeffers, they say they noticed some of the horses body conditions drop, which led them to the next stage of the investigation.
"It was a lot bigger than what we thought," said Mullins.
Mullins said Woodford County Animal Control officials receive calls on a daily basis about potential abuse and they go out and investigate each complaint. She said this scene was the worst she had ever seen.
"Horrible. Absolutely horrible," said Mullins.
"I had to have my moment and it suck it up and be strong. You know you have got to be strong for the animals.
The Woodford County Sheriff's father, who works in livestock removal daily, says this even shocked him.
"This is going to be one of the worst because we have a lot more number dead than normal," said Bill Wright of Wright of Way Farms and Livestock Removal.
He said he could not believe how much the farm had changed over the past two years as he owns a nearby farm. Wright said he removes lifeless livestock from properties as part of his job, but this sight was particularly shocking.
"I am an animal lover. I love animals and if somebody mistreats one, I would kill them in a heartbeat and never think twice. That's God's creation. It's beautiful," said Wright.
Wright helped transport one horse to the University of Kentucky diagnostics lab to determine an exact cause of death.
Mullins said animal control was in charge of the investigation and Jeffers had a potential explanation.
"The owner thinks it could've been a botulism situation so. That's something so based on that we're going to test some things hay and so forth," said Mullins.
Officials say they are in the process of removing the smaller animals still living on the farm and talking to the humane society about placing them in new homes.
"We have contacted them and are trying to determine what to do with the ones we have confiscated so far or the ones she has relinquished ownership of," said Supervisor Susan Jones of Woodford County Animal Control.
Mullins said they have contacted the county attorney to see about filing charges against Jeffers. Mullins and Jones said that would be pending on the results of the investigation.
Thirty equine, along with a few dogs, cats and chickens still remain on the farm. Mullins said the exact number of animals were found dead would not be released at this time. Jones said the case is an ongoing investigation and they are trying to find out exactly what happened so they can determine if the owner will get to keep the remaining animals that have not been surrendered to the humane society.
Neighbors say they hope anyone unable to take care of their pets or livestock would try to ask for help.
"You would think that if they needed help they would've reached out and asked because there are certainly people In the community that will help," said Cahill.
No one answered the door when WDRB tried to talk to Jeffers. According to officials at the property evaluation office of Woodford County, the property belongs to the Grace Wilmott Myers Estate: Care of Cecil Dunn. A phone call made to a Cecil Dunn in Lexington was not returned.