LANTRY, S.D. (AP) — A state judge has ordered two county governments to take control of an estimated 650 wild horses at a north-central South Dakota sanctuary where some horses are believed to have died of starvation.

The Rapid City Journal reports that the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros ranch near Lantry will have an opportunity to regain some horses.

But the order by Circuit Court Judge Jerome Eckrich also allows for the adoption or sale of healthier horses and the euthanizing of any animals deemed too weak to survive the winter.

Former ranch employee Colleen Burns recently reported that more than 30 horses had died since June. Society President Karen Sussman maintains that Burns is a disgruntled employee and says horses "did not die of intentional neglect."

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