SUMMITTVILLE, Ind. (AP) — The owner of the central Indiana property where dozens of animal carcasses were found stacked inside a barn said the deaths were not preventable and that some of the animals died four months ago.
Daniel Ault told WISH-TV that he became overwhelmed with the amount of animals on the farm about 40 miles northeast of Indianapolis.
Police found the carcasses of between 75 and 100 animals — including horses, sheep, cows and chickens — when deputies were called to one of the barns Tuesday evening, said Madison County Sheriff Ron Richardson.
Ault said he did not have the necessary machinery to dispose of the dead animals and that their deaths could not have been prevented.
"I have livestock," he said. "I lose animals from stress and shipping. We lost some horses due to some disease we had in hay we had purchased."
Richardson told The Herald Bulletin that he wonders why the couple who owns the property didn't ask for help or give them away if they couldn't care for the animals. A neighbor told WISH-TV that he would have helped Ault if he had known what was going on.
"This is absolutely sickening, especially in an area like this where every(one) knows everybody," said Mike McNab. "If somebody has problems, if he needed feed, I get skids of it. I would have given the guy bags of feed to feed, and I know any of the neighbors around here, if he was having troubles, would have helped him out."
Richardson told WISH-TV that investigators think Ault, his wife and two children were living in one of the barns for a while. Human feces were found in buckets in a barn on the property.
The Madison County prosecutor's office will determine whether charges will be filed in the case.
The disturbing scene along a rural road may have gone unnoticed because of cold weather, but recent warm temperatures apparently spread the stench of the carcasses beyond the property.
Maleah Stringer, director of the nonprofit Animal Protection League, told The Indianapolis Star she was sickened when she visited the barn and saw both the carcasses and the malnourished surviving animals, which she said were so thin that they looked like "walking skeletons."
"It looks like hell. I don't know how else to describe it," she said. "Bodies are piled up on top of each other. The alive ones are sleeping on the dead ones. It's horrible. It's horrific."
About 30 animals were discovered alive on the property, including eight horses, six sheep, two ponies, a llama and several chickens, ducks, turkeys and rabbits. Richardson said that all of them were malnourished and in "pretty bad shape."
The surviving animals have since been moved to another barn at the same farm.
Stringer said the Animal Protection League will find foster homes for the surviving animals after they're examined by veterinary officials.