Thirty-nine horses said to be living in "squalid, neglectful" conditions were removed by authorities from a Graham-area ranch on Wednesday and Thursday.

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Pierce County authorities on Wednesday and Thursday seized 39 horses said to be living in “squalid, neglectful” conditions on a Graham-area ranch.

It was the largest seizure of horses Pierce County Animal Control has ever undertaken, said county Auditor Julie Anderson, whose office oversees the department.

The horses, many of which are Arabians, appeared to be part of a breeding operation, she said.

Animal-control officers were preparing a possible criminal case against the animals’ owner, she said.

The cost of rehabilitating the horses is likely to reach $40,000. Anderson suggests people wanting to help send donations to: Pierce County Auditor’s Office, 2401 South 35th Street, Room 200, Tacoma, WA 98409.

Donations of wheelbarrows and muck rakes would also be appreciated, she said.

Assisted by other agencies, animal-control officers served a search warrant at the ranch in the 30800 block of Meridian East “in response to another law-enforcement agency’s concerns over the health of the horses,” according to the county.

Officers who first visited the property Tuesday found the horses living in poorly ventilated barns and outbuildings, Anderson said. Some stalls contained compacted manure and urine a foot thick, she said.

Many of the horses, including several stallions, were thin and had untreated injuries, Anderson said.

The animals are not used to being handled, and authorities had a difficult time getting them into trailers, she said.

“They’re very, very skittish,” Anderson said.

The horses were taken to a county park to be checked out by a veterinarian. Animal-control officers arranged to have 1 ton of feed delivered to the park.

Ten horses had to be left behind Wednesday when darkness fell and were removed from the ranch on Thursday.

They included a number of stallions that are particularly skittish and hard to handle, Anderson said.

The county called in “expert horse handlers” to help transport the animals, she said.

The animals’ owner was on site during the raid and has been “pretty cooperative and has obeyed all directives,” Anderson said.

Because the horses are difficult — even dangerous — to handle, offers from individual volunteers to help with them will not be accepted, Anderson said in a release.