Jamie Oberg, News 9
JONES, Oklahoma -- A metro animal rescue group says the drought is causing big problems. More animals are in need of hay and more owners can't afford what is out there.
Blaze's Equine Rescue helps Oklahoma City and county law enforcement rescue animals after their owners are charged with abuse, neglect, or leaving them to starve to death.
Rescuers and law enforcement officials fear the number of abuse cases will soar this winter with little affordable hay available.
When it comes to horses, Natalee Cross of Blaze's Equine Rescue has a huge heart. No matter what, Cross has always found a way to help out everyone who calls.
Calls for starving and neglected horses are happening far too often and Blaze's barns are at capacity. Cross said there's no excuse for animal abuse, but with hay prices so high, it's adding to the problem.
"It just seems like it's an everyday occurrence anymore."
Every day for the past ten years, Natalee Cross has wished she did not have to rescue horses. Many in her barn were very near death and would have died had it not been for her facility.
"You kind of think to yourself you've seen it all and something will sneak up around the corner and surprise you," she said.
Cross said it never gets easier to see the abused homes the horses come from, but when she sees the horses getting healthy, she knows finding them a good home is her mission in life.
But now no one is calling her to adopt horses, so Blaze's has to foot the bill to feed the horses waiting for adoption.
"We just keep praying to God that it will all work out with the price of hay," Cross said.
If that weren't enough, Cross said she is now getting calls from responsible horse owners who will not be able to feed their animals much longer and asking her to take them in for adoption, too.
"It's painful to say no," Natalee said it's hard having to turn away horse owners asking her if they can surrender their horses to her because they don't have hay.
Cross doesn't have hay either. Right now, she's paying $3,000 every two weeks to get hay shipped from Kansas to her rescue ranch.
She's had to limit herself to helping law enforcement, taking in horses suffering some of the worst abuse.
"In my mind I was at capacity at 95 head," Cross said. "[I] keep trying to find more and more places to put them, ask for more and more foster homes to help care for them,"
When or if the price of hay goes down she hopes to see the adoption numbers go up. Then she can replace the horses with those who still need help and get them all in good homes.
Until then, Cross worries for those out there this winter without hay.
"It concerns me. I'm really worried what it's going to bring for them."