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46 horses removed from animal rehabilitation farm after reports of animal cruelty

Animals starving to death, horses not getting the veterinary care they need. These are just some of the complaints coming from a so-called animal sanctuary in Converse. (SBG San Antonio)

Animals starving to death, horses not getting the veterinary care they need. These are just some of the complaints coming from a so-called animal sanctuary in Converse.

We've learned the Bexar County Sheriff's Office has responded to multiple complaints of animal cruelty over the last several months.

But it wasn't until News 4 Trouble Shooter April Molina began investigating that the rescue efforts began.

Cindy Healer is 1 of 5 former Schwartz Farms workers hired by operator Andy Schwartz.

They all tell the same heartbreaking story of animal cruelty at the east side farm that is advertised as a non-profit teaching facility where animals come to be rehabilitated.

"He told me they were a teaching facility so their purpose was to take in neglected, unwanted horses, rehabilitate them and then re-home," said former Schwartz Farms volunteer Shannon McKnight.

The first red flag all the former workers reported was drastic weight loss among some of the horses.

"The fact of the matter is that the animal came in gorgeous and fat and sassy and under the care of Schwartz Farms, would rapidly lose weight," said former Schwartz Farms Board Member and worker, Michelle Hardesty.

Hardesty and the other workers say there were horses that would drop 100 pounds in the first month on the property, also that they were suffering and starving to death in some cases.

"They're not getting the nutrition that they need," McKnight said. "They're being fed wet brewers grain, which is o.k. for some livestock; cows can thrive off of it, horses can't."

Former farm worker, Brandy Brown said in addition to horses, there were rabbits, goats and sheep on the property.

Brown said she cried almost daily over the animals suffering sharing one of her worst days.

"We had a sheep be born without a head and 2 days later, he refused to let anybody milk the mom," Brown said. "The milk bag was about to rupture and she kept going down."

Audrey Lusk was one of the farm managers hired by Schwartz, but she left after only six months because she said couldn't continue watching the animals suffer.

"Andy and I had had it out," Lusk said. "He wasn't caring for an animal that needed to be seen by a vet immediately and he refused for me to take the animal."

All of the workers we interviewed claim there was rarely, if ever, any veterinary care.

Lusk said in many cases when a horse was so sick or malnourished that it could no longer stand, it was removed from the property.

On May 17th, Lusk finally quit, but not before reporting the abuse to the Bexar County Sheriff's Office.

Prior to that there were at least 2 other calls to the county from concerned workers at the farm.

"We called Bexar County Sheriff's Office and we reported and they would tell us we don't find any neglect, we don't find any abuse," McKnight said.

In response to the News 4 Trouble Shooters, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar sent deputies out in force, even hiring a veterinarian to get an expert opinion.

"To see some of the conditions that these animals are in, even versus what they were in 2 weeks ago, to see the degradation and the health, it's heartbreaking," Salazar said.

After visiting the farm himself, Salazar noted the horses' water supply was sometimes scarce and he compared the horses' diet to humans surviving on crackers alone.

"Sometimes they're feeding them, but it's not the best quality feed, sometimes it's way spoiled and it's just not the healthiest environment for these poor animals," Salazar said.

Within days of News 4 notifying the county of animal cruelty complaints, all 46 horses were removed from the property, they are now in the care of a local animal rescue group.

Salazar assured the Trouble Shooters, the county is investigating both animal cruelty complaints as well as white collar crime, referring to the financial records of the Schwartz Farms non-profit.

"I would feel comfortable saying somebody's probably going to be facing charges here," Salazar said. "I can't say what exactly and who exactly, but I would say there are a lot of people who would want to be calling us sooner rather than later and it's up to them if they want to decide if they want to be a witness or a co-defendant in this case."

News 4 reached out to operator Andy Schwartz who declined to comment on any of these allegations.

The smaller livestock is still on the Schwartz property, but the county will continue to investigate any evidence.

All of the horses have been relocated to Meadow Haven Horse Rescue where they are being fed and also getting veterinary care.

If you would like to learn more about the Rescue property or donate, you can visit their website.

Meadow Haven Horse Rescue

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