WALTERBORO -- Colleton County will keep the 47 horses rescued from a Bible camp after a judge denied an appeal from their owner Tuesday.
The ruling clears the way for the county to start finding homes for the horses, Animal Control Director Tim Lynes said.
"I need to get them out of here," Lynes said. "It's busting the budget."
People can sign up for a horse now, although the animals can't be released until county officials approve the papers that would finalize an adoption or sale, he said.
People wanting to adopt horses would have to demonstrate that they are able to take care of them, Lynes said.
Animal-control officers took the horses, along with a dozen dogs and some chickens, May 5 from the Gift Horse Bible Camp near Cottageville after reports that they were being neglected and abused.
Eddy Ackerman, who runs the camp, argued that some of the horses weren't eating because they were sick, but none was abused or neglected.
Magistrate Kenneth Campbell ruled in favor of the county in June. Ackerman appealed, and Circuit Judge Perry M. Buckner upheld Campbell's ruling Tuesday.
The legal battle over the animal-cruelty charges continues.
The county filed 43 charges of animal cruelty against Ackerman last month. Ackerman asked for a jury trial and also filed motions to have the charges dismissed. The maximum penalty for each offense is $500 and 60 days in jail.
The county filed the animal-cruelty charges to try to recoup some of the money spent nursing the horses back to health and feeding them, Lynes said. The horses have cost the county more than $50,000 so far.
The county has been caring for 14 horses at the shelter on Poor Farm Road. The Livestock Equine Awareness and Rescue Network is caring for the rest of them.
Ackerman could not be reached for comment Tuesday.