VANCOUVER -- The BC SPCA has seized 53 animals in a recent cruelty investigation, including 20 pregnant mares.

Thirty-six miniature horses, four goats, six cattle, five llamas, and two emus were removed from a property in the B.C. Interior. The horses were in particularly bad shape, as they were found covered in mud with overgrown hooves, lice, and worms.

Sadly, two of the mini-horses had to be euthanized right after they were removed from the property because they were in "critical distress." The other animals are all receiving ongoing medical care and are doing well, the SPCA said. None of the pregnant mares has given birth yet.

The specific location of the property was not disclosed, but the animal welfare agency did confirm it was in Armstrong. The animals were legally surrendered by the owner from March 3 to 5 during the cruelty investigation, according to the SPCA's Lorie Chortyk.

"On top of this massive rescue, in these uncertain times, we need to be certain that we can continue to provide rescue and relief to animals that desperately need it," the BC SPCA said in a release. "Animals are still coming in and the shelters are doing their best to keep up with demand."

The SPCA said countries that were hit by the pandemic earlier also saw a large number of animals that were abandoned so they are now "preparing for the worst."

"At this point, we aren't seeing a huge increase in surrenders yet, but we are getting a lot of enquiries from people who live alone and are concerned what will happen to their animals if they fall ill and have to go to the hospital," said Chortyk.

She said the SPCA has put in a request to the provincial government to be designated an essential service in the event of further lockdowns.

"This will enable us to continue operating our shelters (with proper protocols in place to protect the health of our staff and the public) and to be able to provide this service of compassionate boarding as our capacity and resources allow," she said.

Last week, the SPCA limited public access to its shelters in response to the growing pandemic. However, those interested in adopting a pet are still able to do so by filling out an application online and making an appointment. People with appointments must abide by strict distancing and biosecurity procedures. The agency is holding an adoption event this week to try to increase its capacity to help new animals needing urgent care.


Staff and volunteers with the organization are still on-site providing emergency care and accepting emergency animal surrenders.