A Douglas County man says he’s upset after learning someone shot and killed a pair of old horses he kept on his property before he knew they’d gotten loose.
The horses apparently had been wandering around East 250 Road south of Stull for several days before being found this week, both dead.
“I don’t know what the reason is for shooting an animal, especially an old horse, which is not a threat,” said Darrel Harden, who owned one horse and kept the other for an acquaintance. “I don’t want to live in a neighborhood where that’s the mentality of people, where they’re just out to shoot innocent animals.”
Lt. Steve Lewis, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office spokesman, said the case was under investigation and that the shooter could face animal cruelty charges. However, Lewis said, it would be difficult to identify someone without evidence or a witness.
Lewis said deputies responded Saturday morning to a report of two horses roaming the 1400 block of East 250 Road but did not find the horses when they arrived. Deputies were dispatched back to the area Monday after someone reported the carcasses in the same area.
Lewis said the sheriff’s office frequently gets calls about loose cattle and works with neighbors to pen up cattle and figure out where they belong.
“It’s pretty rare to get a call about a loose horse,” he said.
Harden said he’d been away from his Douglas County property for about a week when a deputy called him Monday asking whether he owned horses matching the description, saying they’d been found dead, less than a quarter mile from his land.
Harden said each horse appeared to have been shot once in the chest area, he guesses at close range.
Harden said he’d lived on his 400-acre property in the 1400 block of East 150 Road about 20 years but that he’d recently married and was primarily staying at his wife’s home in the Kansas City area, while his son stayed in the Douglas County house.
Ideally, Harden said, someone would have been able to pen up the horses until they figured out who they belonged to. But he understands that’s not necessarily easy, especially when his nearest neighbor is half a mile away and he doesn't know everyone in the area.
“I wouldn’t recognize whose cows are out other than if they’re standing right by the gate,” he said. “I’m not sure if anybody would recognize who the horses belonged to.”
Harden said both horses were in good health, just old.
His horse was a black thoroughbred named Windstar. Harden said he’d had the 30-plus-year-old horse, retired from racing, more than 20 years and used to ride him but that “as he got older he was just more of a pet.”
He said the other was a gray horse, also old, that he agreed to keep on his property for his son’s in-laws when they moved out of state.
Mindy Kahle, who lives on East 250 Road, said Saturday morning she helped a passerby who knocked on her door shoo the horses away from the road and reported them to the sheriff’s office.
Kahle said the horses were friendly — she was able to pet them — but that she couldn’t coax them across the road to her yard. Neither she nor her neighbors knew who they belonged to and guessed maybe they had been set loose on purpose by someone who didn’t want them anymore.
Kahle said she was disappointed when she heard the horses had been killed and frustrated the sheriff’s office had not done anything about them sooner.
“We deal with a lot of dumped animals, but I’ve never dealt with horses,” Kahle said, noting almost all her neighbors have adopted stray dogs as pets. “Nobody knew whose these horses were, and it’s just sad.”