After caring for an abused horse, an Ethel man went on a mission to rescue horses that had been denied the basics needed for survival.

In 2011, Tim Travis, who has worked for the Department of Corrections for 26 years, was asked by a deputy friend to take a look at a horse in Clinton that was suspected of being abused. The owner, Travis said, was eventually found guilty of animal cruelty.

Following that experience, Travis founded Equine Advocates of the Felicianas and has made it his mission to rescue horses denied those things vital to every animal — food, water, shelter and attention.

“Once I began checking on more horses, I began to see that this was a big problem in East Feliciana,” Travis said. “I was shocked.”

Two horses rescued by Travis — Molly Mae and Sam — were both found starved and neglected.

After two months in Travis’s care, Sam was back to normal — healthy and happy. Molly Mae, who was on the verge of death, was saved from a life of pain and suffering, Travis said.

“More and more people started to come forth, telling me about cases of suspected abuse and neglect,” Travis said. “That’s when I began really seeking the animals out, looking for those that needed help.”

Travis said there are plenty of shelters and rescue operations for cats and dogs, but none for livestock.

“There is a need for larger animals and horses to be saved,” Travis said.

Once residents in East and West Feliciana began hearing of his mission, volunteers asked how they could be of service. Since Travis cannot take in every horse himself, volunteers who can become foster families house the rescued horses at their stables, pastures or farms until they’re returned to health, he said.

“It’s just until we can find a forever home for them,” Travis said. “After the courts release the animals back to us, I offer the foster families the option to adopt.”

Sadly, some horses are beyond saving and have been found in such terrible shape that veterinarians have recommended the animals be euthanized, he said.

“We try to do all we can to nurse the horses back to health before that happens,” Travis said. “Sometimes its just too much, they’re beyond saving and the alternative is actually the kinder thing to do.” Those who have heard of the rescuer’s efforts have become vigilant and call him to report suspected cases of neglect. Such was the case with Smokey, a 900-pound horse.

Travis said when he got the call, he rode by the address for several days but could never locate Smokey.

“Then, after a hard freeze, I finally saw him standing in a puddle of ice water, nearly frozen to death,” Travis recalls.

He said Smokey had been exposed to the elements and had developed something called rain rot. “A majority of the horses have it when we find them,” Travis said.

He said Smokey was nursed back to health after receiving proper veterinary care, diet and shelter. The horse, which had lost a couple hundred pounds, gained back the weight .

“Smokey was lovingly cared for by his foster family,” Travis said. “If we don’t do something to prevent things like this from happening, it’s reflective of all of us.”

Travis said foster families from East and West Feliciana have stepped up, but the major issue is funding. Travis said he does not have the funds needed to apply for nonprofit status, which would make the agency eligible for grant funding.

“When I do come into enough money to hire a tax attorney, it’s needed more for the horses. I’m just doing all that I can with the dollars I’ve got,” Travis said. “When contributions dry up, people, thankfully, reach into their pockets to help.”

Equine Advocates has had as many as 26 horses in the care of volunteers and as little as one to six horses, though Travis admits, the goal is to have none.

“Because that would mean no horses are being neglected,” he said. Veterinary expenses can be costly.

“Fortunately, there are vets in the Felicianas and at LSU Veterinary School who offer a reduced price on some of their services,” he said.

Through foster families, donations of hay, feed and supplies and fundraisers organized by generous businesses, groups and residents, Equine Advocates is able to continue its mission of saving horses. Most recently, Ride for the Rescue, a motorcycle poker run held Oct. 4 through the Felicianas, raised about $1,500, enough to buy hay for the winter, Travis said.

Beth and Scotty Dawson volunteered for Ride for the Rescue.

“The community should be very thankful for Tim Travis and his big heart, kindness and his dedication to rescue these horses that can’t defend themselves against cruel and heartless owners,” said Beth Dawson, a resident of Jackson and East Feliciana school board member.

“I can’t do this on my own, Equine Advocates ... it’s about many people, and I’m very grateful to every single person who has given their time, space, money, love and attention to help these horses. We, and I say ‘we,’ because this organization is about people who care and just want to do the right thing,” Travis said.

Others who care are involved in the legal system, and part of the group’s mission is to provide court testimony once criminal charges have been filed. Most recently, on Oct. 22, a horse was rescued off Plank Road in Slaughter and its owner was booked on animal cruelty, Travis said.

The horse, nicknamed Mellow Yellow by rescuers due to its mild manner, was taken promptly to the vet were he received everything he needed to start his struggle for survival, said Travis.

Cases like Mellow Yellow’s are all too frequent, Travis said. In February, a Slaughter man was arrested on felony animal cruelty after a horse was found to be neglected under his watch. Travis said though the horse was removed, it later died.

According to detective Kevin Garig, with the East Feliciana Parish Sheriff’s Office, the horse was weak, had no nourishment and had eaten all the grass in the areas it could reach.

Initially, the man was accused of misdemeanor animal cruelty, but once the animal died, the crime was upgraded to a felony offense. The man was eventually released after posting $30,000 bail, according to records.

To become a foster family or to volunteer, contact Tim Travis at (225) 721-1362 or follow the group on Facebook at Equine Advocates of the Felicianas.