The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) launched a large-scale rescue this week when 26 ponies were found starving near a castle in Hampshire, England.
Highclere Castle is best known for being the setting of the popular TV series, "Downton Abbey." It's where the show's six seasons were filmed from 2009 to 2015, and tourists frequent the grounds to get a glimpse of the estate's magnificent architecture.
Highclere is also the current home of Lord and Lady Carnarvon. The couple was unsettled to learn that the ponies found abandoned in a meadow near their home were suffering from severe malnutrition, dehydration, and several other medical issues.
When the horses were found, the RSPCA worked with charity volunteers and police to bring all the animals into safety. They were evaluated by a team of veterinarians, and many in the group were sent for immediate medical care.
While veterinary staff work to save the horses, police are in search of any information to tell them how the herd ended up at the gates of Highclere Castle. None of them have microchips, which is required by English law, and local residents don't recognize them.
The main suspicion at this point in the investigation is the horses were brought in from an outside area and dumped at the site. Whoever did it might have known the locals would reach out to help the animals.
Unfortunately, cases like this one are becoming increasingly common. The Mirror reports the number of horse rescues has increased 55 percent in the last year. It's too early to tell if all 26 of the Highclere ponies will survive their ordeal, but equine charities and the RSPCA are working hard to save their lives.
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