From the apparently endless stream of stories of animal cruelty in Pennsylvania comes this:

Adams County, home to Gettysburg and Philly Dawg, has now seen its worst case of horse abuse.

Officials with the Rick and Sally Meyers Animal Shelter/Adams County SPCA seized 21 starving thoroughbred horses - all of them weanlings and foals - from a farm in Littlestown. Some were so emaciated and dehydrated they had to be carried out. One dead mare was found in the field and two severely ill foals - including the one in the video below - died after efforts to save them failed.

SPCA officials say charges are pending against the unidentified caretaker of the horses who had eluded authorities by moving the horses around for six months.

A Florida man now has stepped forward to stay he owns 12 of the horses and had been trying to find them since May.

SPCA board president Katie Carroll said her group will pursue charges against the individual who had been paid to care for them.

We wondered why a Florida horse breeder would send pregnant mares to Pennsylvania to give birth.

Could it be to take advantage of the state's lucrative "PA bred" program for racehorses born in Pennsylvania? The PA Bred fund, which has grown from $6 million to more than $16 million in the past four years as a result of casino gambling, pays out several million to owners and breeders of Pennsylvania-bred horses each year.

I tested my theory with two experts on the issue. John Hannum III, executive secretary of the Pennsylvania  Horse Breeders Association and Barbara Luna, director of Turning for Home, the thoroughbred retirement and adoption program based at Philadelphia Park.

They both said they didn't think anyone was abusing the Pa bred program, rather they blamed the poor economy.

Luna, who is taking in as many as six retired racehorses a week, double the usual number, said the young horses would be a long way from winning on the track and they certainly have to eat to win.

But I can't help but think that the PA Bred program offers opportunities for unscrupulous people who might prey on unsuspecting long-distance owners by offering a "comfortable" Pennsylvania farm for mares to have their foals when in fact the reality is something horrific.

(Turning for Home is a model program for racehorse rehoming, one I wrote about last year, which has saved 660 horses since its founding in 2008. It uses a percentage of winnings to help support rehab and retraining of racehorses at the end of their racing careers. The track also has instituted a zero tolerance program on auctions. Trainers who dump their horses at the infamous New Holland or Camelot auctions where slaughter buyers lurk, will lose stall privileges at the track. The program partners with area farms and non-profits, such as South Jersey Thoroughbred Retirement and Adoption and PA two groups known as After the Races in Pottstown and Glenmoore to retrain and adopt out the horses for new careers off the track.)