By Andrea Lucia

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A raid on a self-described animal sanctuary by the SPCA of Texas and the Van Zandt County Sheriff’s Department Tuesday uncovered the remains of 50 dead horses and dozens more near starvation.

The SPCA reports it rescued 87 animals from the “Over the Moon” sanctuary near Canton, including 70 horses, nine donkeys, six pigs and a longhorn.

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Pictures provided by the SPCA show horses with easily visible ribs and spines, alongside empty food bowls.

neglected horse (SPCA of Texas)

neglected horse (SPCA of Texas)

“Those horses didn’t have any food and little to no water,” said SPCA spokesperson Maura Davies.

Investigators noted horses were so hungry they were chewing at nearby trees.

“They had not only begun but they had made a serious dent in eating all of the bark of most of the trees they could reach in certain areas,” said Davies.

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The most disturbing discovery, though, were the corpses of horses in various states of decay.

“The fact that they were all apparently dragged to the back of the property and deposited in a creek bed and left to decompose,” said Davies.

The SPCA says it began investigating after a report of neglected animals on March 3.  Investigators were working with the owners to improve conditions.

“At that time, we were completely unaware of any deceased horses. They would only allow us on the front part of the property,” said Davies.

A report of dead horses, weeks later, prompted the SPCA to seek a court order allowing the Tuesday’s seizure.

No arrests have been made, but the SPCA says it’s helping gather evidence it hopes will lead to criminal charges.

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In court next week, the SPCA will ask a judge to award it custody of the animals, which it hopes to rehabilitate and eventually adopt out.