ROAD TO RECOVERY: Rescued horses from Dupont are being sheltered on farms in the county while arrangements are being made to find them permanent homes. Superior Court Judge Alison Frazier has ruled that the  horses’ owner who has been accused of animal neglect can no longer care for the animals. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
ROAD TO RECOVERY: Rescued horses from Dupont are being sheltered on farms in the county while arrangements are being made to find them permanent homes. Superior Court Judge Alison Frazier has ruled that the horses’ owner who has been accused of animal neglect can no longer care for the animals. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Superior Court Judge Alison Frazier has ordered more than 50 horses be permanently removed from the care of a Dupont man accused of animal cruelty.

Jeff Hayes, 51, was arrested in January on charges of animal cruelty after sheriff's deputies found several of his horses in a malnourished state. At the time, more than 80 horses were confiscated by the sheriff's department and sent to temporary caregivers.

A court-mandated state veterinarian report filed last week recommended the animals be permanently removed from Hayes' care. The report included an evaluation of 51 animals and concluded that nearly 20 of the horses were in "immediate jeopardy" under Hayes' care.

Frazier's ruling pertains only to those horses evaluated in the report, meaning there is no ruling yet on the fate of the other animals that remain in foster homes. Though the county confiscated more than 80 horses, some either died or had to be euthanized.

The order came after Hayes failed to pay a $60,000 cash bond for the care of the animals.

Deputy Yancy Denning, who is leading the investigation, said the county is still entering invoices for the care costs of the horses to determine the final payment. The final bill toward the care could become part of Hayes' court fees in his criminal proceedings.

On Tuesday, the county began moving the horses from temporary locations to permanent owners. Some of the temporary caregivers are keeping their horses, but the sheriff's office is looking for other permanent owners.

"We have some (adopted) and we're just trying to make some calls," Denning said.

There are currently no records available for the horses' medical history, but the caretakers have estimated the animals' ages range from 1 year old to older than 20.

A majority are American Quarter Horse or American Paint Horse, though Hayes also had Arabian and mustang breeds.

Denning said the remaining horses have also been evaluated by veterinarians, and the next step for the county is to request that a state veterinarian make a recommendation on those animals, as well. He added that a few of the horses were pregnant at the time of the seizure.

Anyone interested in adopting the horses can contact Denning at the sheriff's office at (812) 265-2648.