The owner of two horses who were rescued from certain death off a B.C. mountainside has been charged with three counts of animal cruelty.

Frank McKay, an Edmonton lawyer, is accused of abandoning the animals just before Christmas near the town of McBride, B.C.

Snowmobilers found the two horses, Belle and Sundance, trapped in the snow in a remote area on Mount Renshaw.

They were rescued on Dec. 23 after a team of volunteers worked night and day for almost a week to dig a one-kilometre trench through the heavy snow and ice to make a path for the horses to escape.

It's believed the horses were left behind mid-September when Mackay was delivering supplies to hikers in the area.

Shawn Eccles, the SPCA's chief animal protection officer in British Columbia, said Tuesday the animals suffered from malnutrition and various health issues, including missing hair, after being exposed to freezing temperatures.

"We placed the horses in temporary foster care where they received ongoing veterinary care until they were ready to be adopted," Eccles said.

The horses are now recovering in permanent homes in Prince George and Kamloops, and are doing well.

McKay will make his first court appearance in McBride on June 12. If convicted, he faces a maximum fine of $10,000, up to five years in jail and a ban on owning certain types of animals.

In a previous interview with CTV News, MacKay says his actions were misunderstood.

"Surely they don't think I hauled three horses 600 kilometres to starve to death in the wilderness," said Mackay.

"We made every effort we thought we could do physically or humanly possible," said Mackay. "And after that you have to make a tough decision."

With files from The Canadian Press