PHOENIX - Maricopa County Sheriff's officials say three malnourished horses have been seized from a woman in New River who says she was relying on "hobos" and "transients" to take care of the animals.
They say the woman hasn't been arrested, but she could be facing three counts of animal cruelty charges for failing to provide medical treatment. Her name was not released.
The owner of the horses says she knew they were sick and underweight and admitted they hadn't received medical care in at least 18 months.
According to MCSO, using a scientific body condition rating system, veterinarians diagnosed the seized animals with the worst possible score, "All the bone structure is easily noticeable and the tail, head and hook bones are prominently projecting with the ribs."
The horses were turned over to Durango Equine Veterinary Clinic and are receiving emergency assistance.
Officials say detectives responded to a tip about the situation on September 13.
"We rely on the public to be eyes and ears for us. We would have never found these horses if it wasn't for the person that called and all they left was a sentence, 'skinny horses on property.' That's all they left that was enough for us to find them and get them out of there," said Detective David Evans with MCSO's Animal Crimes unit.
"If you own a house pet or any animal, you are personally responsible for making sure they're fed and receive proper veterinary care," stated Sheriff Paul Penzone. "Report situations like this one to MCSO Animal Crimes Hotline at 602-876-1681."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.