June 17, 2011 at 11:51 AM EST - Updated June 24 at 10:23 AM
LEE COUNTY, SC (WIS) - The owner of an emaciated horse whose picture caused quite a stir in Lee County decided to put the animal down Friday morning after it couldn't stand anymore.
The horse named BJ garnered a lot of attention when the animal shelter in Lee County posted a picture of the animal to its Facebook page on Wednesday. People began commenting on that posting and calling the sheriff after seeing BJ's condition.
Sheriff Daniel Simon said the owner of BJ, James Messick, called a vet Friday morning after he couldn't get BJ to stand up. It was determined that the horse needed to be put down.
Messick said Thursday the comments that were being made about BJ were simply untrue. He said all four of his horses are properly cared for, and that no one else could do a better job taking care of them.
But a very vocal group in Lee County said different. "Nobody's going to treat him better than I treat him," said Messick. "No one can do any more for him than I can."
Messick made it a point to take in animals he says were cast off. One horse was sold to him with a disfigured hip. He said BJ was a used-up Amish buggy horse. "I don't go out and buy horses that are fit," said Messick. "I'm a misfit, so are they."
Lately, though, BJ had lost a lot of weight and attracted a lot of attention. Messick said BJ was just old, an excuse that wasn't good enough for many concerned passers by.
One of them was Doris Winstead, director of the Lee County Animal Shelter. She posted the picture of BJ on the shelter's Facebook page, saying the owner of the horse should be ashamed.
Other concerned readers chimed in as well. "I don't understand why they didn't come in and ask questions," said Messick. "Like I told the sheriff yesterday, I got nothing to hide. My animals are treated good."
Wednesday's visit by Sheriff Simon wasn't the first. He says he was also here in April, and on both visits, he found ample food and water.
That hasn't stopped a barrage of phone calls and e-mails from people in the community demanding more action. The sheriff says he's contacted an area veterinarian and the Humane Society to get an expert's perspective.
"Would I turn my animal lose to someone else?" asked Messick. "No, this is my friend."
Simon said the humane society was expected to visit Messick Friday afternoon. The sheriff wasn't sure if any charges would be filed.