SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash. -- Animal Control officers searched a ranch Saturday in West Spokane County, removing around 25 emaciated and malnourished horses.

Investigators from the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service arrived to the ranch on the 6800 block of West Deno Road at 8 a.m., and expected to be there much of the day. A judge signed the search warrant Friday. The investigation began after a complaint about the horses was called in. SCRAPS said an animal protection officer had an opportunity to view the horses earlier in the week and it caused some concern.

When we came this morning no horses had any food, said Nancy Hill, Director of SCRAPS.

On a body condition scoring scale from one to nine - one being poor, nine being obese - the animals we are scoring are a one or a two.

The horses owner, Jan Hickerson, says she runs a horse rescue and rehabilitates the animals.

These horses that just came from the reservation, they were torn, beat up, had some issues, and here they are taking them, telling me 'you did it,' Hickerson said.

Every single day these animals are fed and cared for.

Hickerson also said because of the size of her operation, it is not unusual to have many sick horses at the same time.

SCRAPS said when officers got to Hickerson s ranch, there was no hay in front of the horses. The horses had also not eaten since Friday night, though Hickerson claimed she planned to feed them Saturday morning. Several horses were emaciated, according to investigators.

These horses are at risk and need immediate medical attention and wholesome food. They need to be eating all the time to get weight back, Hill said.

Animal protection officers took the horses to the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center to be cared for. A few horses deemed in good enough condition remained at Hickerson s ranch.

Hickerson could face animal cruelty charges.

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