When Tyree Bryant named his horse "Thunder," he had no idea the animal would cause a storm of controversy.
"These horses are like family to me," Bryant said amid tears Wednesday. He gets emotional when he thinks about what people are saying on the Internet.
Someone took a photo of Thunder on Tuesday and posted it on Facebook. The image showed the horse tied to a telephone pole, attached to what appeared to be a short rope. Rain was falling and temperatures were in the mid-30's.
The image went viral, prompting outraged and concerned people from as far away as California to call the Bedford County Sheriff's Office.
"Since 7:00 (Wednesday) morning, we've received more than 160 calls," said Major Ricky Gardner with the Bedford County Sheriff's Office.
Animal control checked on the horse within 30 minutes of being notified Tuesday afternoon. Sergeant Johnathan Jackson found Thunder in good shape.
"I found quality hay, clean and fresh water, and the horse was in good health and care," Jackson said.
On a scale of one to ten, with one being the worst condition, Jackson said Thunder was a six.
The rope attaching the stallion to a telephone pole was more than 75 feet long. The horse wasn't sheltered, but that's not something Virginia law requires of livestock, even during bad weather.
"All it needs is adequate food, water, and access to veterinary care when necessary," explained Jackson.
Bryant owns several horses. He keeps Thunder tied up in the front yard to keep him from fighting with the others.
Now that Thunder's image has gone viral, Bryant wants people to know that he always has his animal's best interests at heart.
"They're like one of my kids," Bryant said. "I wouldn't let anyone hurt them, just like I wouldn't let anyone hurt my kids. If you think I'm mistreating my horse, I'm not."
Byrant agrees that his horse needs protection from the elements. He's now trying to find a barn for Thunder to stay in during the winter.
WDBJ7 has received several calls and social media messages about a horse in Bedford County.
Facebook users shared an image of "Thunder," a male horse tied to a telephone pole in the Lowry area. People from as far away as California expressed outrage that the horse had been left out in cold weather on what appeared to be a short rope.
WDBJ7’s Tim Saunders checked into this. The Bedford County Sheriff’s Office responded to the owner’s property at 1 p.m. Tuesday. Animal control officers determined that the horse had adequate food and water. The horse was tied to a rope between 75 and 100 feet long, which is legal. Although the horse was standing outside during a cold rain storm, Virginia code does not require livestock to have shelter access.
WDBJ7 talked to the horse's owner, Tyree Bryant, who said he’s had the horse for a long time. Bryant says he kept the stallion tied up in his front yard to keep it away from mares in the field behind his home. He is currently working to find a barn for the horse to stay in during the cold winter months.
Major Ricky Gardner with the Bedford County Sheriff's Office is asking people to stop calling 911 about the horse. His office has received "hundreds" of calls about the animal today. He wants the public to know that the case has been investigated and that there is no evidence of mistreatment.
Tune in tonight for more on this story.