AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF)  —- Equine Rescue of Aiken faces a critical challenge. Declining donations have created a roadblock for their mission to care for needy horses.

“We get calls every week of people that are not able to afford their horses, the owner surrenders,” Pam Patron/Equine Rescue of Aiken said. “We’ve had to refuse other counties from taking in starvation cases.”

More than a year ago, Edgefield County Animal Control seized nine horses, also known as the Edgefield County 9 case, for suspected animal cruelty and neglect. “We have spent over $54,000 since we’ve had these horses because we initially had to put them on a refeeding program, which is extremely expensive,” she shared. “Feeding alfalfa hay at $55 bale, vet care, medicines, taking care of them. It’s not been cheap.”

Taking care of these animals without reimbursement makes it hard for the organization to help others.”We don’t get any state, federal, county, or city money for the animals,” Patron said. “So we have to go back out and beg for donations.”

A bill at the South Carolina Statehouse could help organizations in similar situations. House Bill 3682 aims to change how animals are cared for after their owner’s arrest and how animal cruelty is punished. It establishes a framework for handling expenses related to caring for seized animals. At last check, it was in committee.

“That bill would have allowed rescues, not just horse rescues, but dog rescues, other animal rescues to be reimbursed if the person was found guilty of starvation and neglect,” she said. 

Though Animal Control intervened in the Edgefield 9 case, getting the courts to recognize the financial strain on shelters and rescues remains challenging. “I think the biggest thing is owner surrender is a really big deal when they’re finding horses that are a body condition of one or two, persuading the owners to surrender those horses so that once they regain their health, the rescues can adopt them out,” she explained. 

The rescue is accepting donations. You can donate at Or in person at 532 Glenwood Dr, Aiken.