SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY, CA - San Joaquin County sheriff's investigators are trying to figure out who shot a horse, tied it with rope then dumped it on a rural road.
"It didn't need to happen," Debbi Romjue said. "There's options out there for people. If you can't take care of the horse, there's options."
The horse remained along the road for at least 12 hours on Tuesday until county officials could get it removed. People who live near the area believe the horse was dumped sometime overnight.
The horse was found on its side along Greenwood Road in Vernalis. Its front feet were tied with twine and back feet tied with rope that led to a telephone pole.
"(The) horse (was) laying there eyes open, mouth open; gunshot in between his ears and it looked like the front of his head had been crushed by something," Romjue said.
Investigators believe the horse was killed at another location and brought to Greenwood Road on a trailer. There was blood near the horse's nose and deep scars on its backside.
Romjue, whose family owns horses near the area, said the hooves were not groomed but the horse appeared to be healthy. She believes the horse was about 10-years-old because of the condition of its teeth.
The horse was still wearing a red halter when dumped.
"It's senseless. There's no reason for it. That horse didn't have to die," said Romjue.
San Joaquin County sheriff's Lt. Philip George said horse-dumping happens throughout the county from time-to-time and the animals are often left along the road for someone else to pick-up. During the dumping, the horses are tied to telephone poles or other solid objects so the suspects can leave the horse on their trailer then fall off as they drive away -- instead of attempting to carry the horse, that can sometimes weigh up to 1,500 pounds, said George.
In this most recent case, a hauling company, that contracts with the county, came to remove the horse.
If an animal dies or is euthanized, a rendering company, that disposes dead animals, picks them up after an owner calls and pays a fee.
"Whoever did this must have known the tallow truck drives by here everyday so it's somebody that lives around here, obviously," said Derek Romjue. "This is just ridiculous."
"I see animals dumped on that road all the time. I've picked up dogs and taken them to the shelter from that same spot," said Nicole Hamilton who saw the horse as she was driving by with her children.
"It's just sad because I have horses and to see people dump them like trash is, it's heartbreaking," Hamilton said.
Sheriff's officials are checking the horse for any markings or tattoos that might indicate who owns the horse. If they find the owner, the investigation will continue.