Dozens of horses are recovering after being rescued from a woman accused of hoarding and starving animals. Seminole County sheriff's deputies are calling it the worst case of animal abuse they've ever seen.
News 9 was on the scene over the weekend when sheriff's deputies discovered up to 30 carcasses on a farm just east of Seminole. Volunteers worked to save as many of the animals as they could. Now, the horses are one step closer to finding foster homes.
"It's terrible," Seminole County sheriff's deputy David Hanson said Saturday. "It brings tears to your eyes."
Most of what was found on Carolyn "Nichole" Vaughn's farm is too gruesome to show on TV. By the end of the day, 64 horses and other animals were saved. Most of the animals were taken in near-death conditions. Now, just two days later, the horses can't get enough to eat.
"If the [hay] was there for them all day long, their heads wouldn't come up," laughed Natalee Cross with Blaze's Tribute Equine Rescue.
Next up, is a visit from the vet and blood tests for the horses. Volunteers must wait on a court to give the green light to find each animal a home. Within the week, a Seminole County District Court judge is expected to force Nichole Vaughn give up her animals or pay a bond to support them ahead of her trial.
Cross says suspects almost always choose to save money and give up custody. In the best interest of the horses, that is exactly what Cross is hoping for.
"It's a family-ran operation," Cross said. "There's no paid employees, so we're kind of being stretched all over the place, but we're used to it. We'll get through it."
Vaughn is accused of animal cruelty and violating carcass laws. Deputies say before her horse hoarding incident, she was found guilty of running a puppy mill.
Cross says, typically, there will be a bond or forfeiture hearing roughly 10 days after the arrest. If Vaughn gives up the animals, Cross hopes to find them new homes starting next week.