12/14/2014 05:49 EST | Updated 02/13/2015 05:59 EST

BC SPCA seizes 16 emaciated horses from Okanagan farm

The BC SPCA is investigating after discovering numerous horses on a farm in B.C.'s Interior that were malnourished and near death.

Kathy Woodward, a protection officer with the animal welfare agency, said 16 horses were seized last week on a farm in the Armstrong area, north of Vernon.

She said the SPCA had been watching the farm for about a year after tips from the public raised concerns about the operation, which has more than 100 horses.

Woodward said officials noticed a dramatic decline in the health of several horses during the past several weeks, prompting the SPCA to visit the farm.

Some horses may not survive

She said the horses are in extremely bad shape and some may not survive.

"The horses that we took custody of, were between .5 out of 9 and a 1.5 out of a 9 on body condition score and, ah, 1.5 is emaciated. Point five doesn't even hit the scale," she said.

"It's devastating. They were mostly mares and foals that we took custody of and they were in very poor condition — huge concerns as to whether or not some of the foals will survive.

The SPCA is recommending charges under provincial animal cruelty legislation and the Criminal Code.

Woodward said the horses that were seized have been placed in foster care.

"We weren't prepared for having to take that number," she said. "They were in immediate need of veterinary intervention. Two were considered in critical distress. They would have died if not for the intervention."

The SPCA also plans to monitor the remaining horses on the farm.

The owner's identity hasn't been released.

"I believe he has raised horses for a good part of his life," said Woodward. "We have issued orders and will be returning to check for compliance."

Map: Armstrong, B.C.