Reports of animal abuse are increasing and county officials have said they will likely get worse, a direct result of the drought.

Earlier this week, Amy Abernathy, animal cruelty investigator and a manager at the Corinne T. Smith Animal Center, posted on Facebook that an owner had released a badly malnourished horse, that the center did not have facilities to keep. Within an hour, there were several offers to foster the horse.

"Times are hard, and I think we're going to see more and more cases where people cannot take care of their livestock," Abernathy said. "We were able to save this horse, that besides being malnourished, was fairly healthy. Owner release is the only option, besides euthanasia.

"We had success getting this horse fostered, and we'll try to help anyone who has a problem. The key is to do something sooner instead of later. If the animal doesn't get in such bad shape to begin with, saving it isn't as costly or difficult."

Though cattle and horses are the majority of the cases reported, Abernathy said the drought and conditions are hard on all kinds of animals, including chickens, geese and ducks, sheep and goats.

On Monday, Sheriff's Deputy Jed Polnick responded to a call in a large but barren lot at U.S. Highway 67 and County Road 176. Three horses were on the property, but a third was extremely malnourished, Polnick reported.

There appeared to be adequate water in a trough, but no grass was growing or was there any feed. The one house on the property was deserted, and Polnick wrote in the report he had been unable to find the landowner.

The investigation is continuing and the horses were transported to a lot by the Brown County Law Enforcement Center where they can be fed.

To report suspected animal abuse in the county, call the Brown County Sheriff's Office at (325) 646-5510. For possible assistance in releasing starving livestock, contact the Corinne T. Smith Animal Center at (325) 646-0617 or Scott Anderson at the Brown County AgriLife Extension Service (325) 646-0386.