Shocking case of animal abuse at B.C. ranch for troubled teens

Police in British Columbia say they hope to lay charges soon in connection with a shocking case of animal abuse.

Thirty horses and seven dogs all sick and starving were rescued last month from a lodge in the B.C. interior.

The animals had been abandoned for the winter. One horse was so weak, it had to be put down.

A neighbour, Roma Wilson, says everyone who saw the animals was "absolutely horrified."

Crisis centre for troubled teens

Police say what's also shocking is where the animals were seized from. Chilanko Lodge is a crisis centre for troubled teens.

On its Web site, the owners of the lodge say it has a "history of caring" and teaches values such as respect and responsibility.

But the true history of the lodge, says Wilson, is one of neglect.

"Every winter there has been dead livestock on that place," said Wilson.

The American owners, Mark and Cherly Sudweek, were not at the lodge when the animals were seized. That's because every winter they pack up and take the troubled teens to Mexico.

Reached by e-mail, Mark Sudweek told CBC TV News that he's exercising his right to remain silent. And he pointed out that he has yet to be charged.

Left to fend for themselves

But neighbours say they abandon their animals every year.

"They just leave them to fend for themselves," says Elizabeth MacDonald, who says she feeds the animals when she can.

MacDonald says she's complained in the past, but the nearest RCMP detachment is understaffed and more than an hour away.

The seized animals are now being cared for by the SPCA, but even weeks later, the signs of abuse are evident.

Eric Mirus, a worker at the animal shelter, says some of the horses still have no flesh on their bones.

Describing one horse, he said, "The backbone is sticking out. You can count every rib."