By Geoff Davidian
PLEASANT PRAIRIE, Wis., May 31 (Reuters) - Tests of drinking water wells and a stream showed no pollution near the site of the gruesome discovery in April of 60 horse carcasses in shallow graves on the property of a Wisconsin stable, public health officials said.
But officials advised neighbors to test their own well water periodically.
The state Department of Natural Resources and Lake County and Kenosha County health departments said on Thursday there was no immediate threat to water sources used by neighbors of Hidden Lake Stables, the 30-acre (12.1 hectare) property in Kenosha County where search warrants resulting from an anonymous tip uncovered scores of dead horses in April.
A criminal complaint filed against the stable owners David White, 59, and Paula Moctezuma, 62, said the animals died of starvation and animal abuse.
While there is no immediate threat to nearby water sources, neighbors were encouraged to test their wells for bacteria "as part of their annual well testing regimen," said Zoe McManama, private water supply specialist for the state Department of Natural Resources.
In April, local officials seized dozens of surviving horses, goats, sheep, baby lambs and poultry, some standing in two feet of manure and urine in enclosures where dead animals lay. They were transported to a private facility where they will remain at county expense until a court decides what to do with them.
A preliminary hearing in Kenosha County Circuit Court is scheduled on June 12 for White and Moctezuma, who face felony charges of animal cruelty resulting in death. They are free on $10,000 bond each but are banned from being near animals.
The Kenosha County District Attorney's office said that forensic tests of the animals were ongoing, and additional charges were possible.
The Wisconsin case is the latest involving abuse and mistreatment of horses nationwide, and in many cases care for surviving animals can become the responsibility of the taxpayers. One Alaska breeder said the cost of maintaining 60 animals could be as much as $150,000 a year.
In the Pacific Northwest, 25 mistreated horses and 50 goats were seized in February from a farm in Centralia, Washington.
In another animal cruelty case, this one in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, Magisterial District Judge Lowell Witmer ordered horse breeder and attorney Rebecca Roberts, 53, of Palmyra to pay $27,638 in restitution and a $22,500 fine and ordered her to stay away from animals for seven years after finding her guilty of abusing 29 horses. (Editing by David Bailey and David Gregorio)