Since February, HHS and Baimbridge have started something of an informal partnership, with both recognizing the dire situation. Baimbridge says he is now training and designating certain officers to specifically address the horse-dumping cases (some of his officers now carry lassos along with their weapons). He is also undergoing a more formal educational component: disseminating information on how to properly care for equines, he says.
However, the circumstances are so overwhelming, Baimbridge is confident that for every horse he and his officers are able to save, there are 20, 30, maybe even 40 who will not survive.
The sad reality is that when the odds are stacked so high in the wrong direction, the life and death of so many horses comes down to math. "The officers look around [at the horses] and have to figure out which ones might make it through the night if they rescue them or which ones aren't worth saving because they'll probably die anyway," says Baimbridge.
"I keep telling the guys, 'We can't expect we will solve the problem overnight ... it will take years,'" he notes. "But," he says, "we get so many calls for horses on the streets, we just need ... something."
When asked if he thinks his efforts are working so far, one can almost hear his head shaking:
The fatal cycle of abuse and neglect
Even for those horses who are saved, there is a disturbing chance the animal will simply re-enter the fatal cycle.
On Labor Day, two horses were found by authorities in the middle of the night. Local news reports showed images of the emaciated horses, while neighbors described the horses being left "to die" in a ditch on the side of the road.
One of the horses - an 8-year-old mare - could barely walk. She was heard bellowing in pain on the on-air news broadcast.
The Harris County Sheriff's Office in Houston was called to the scene to aid the rescue. One deputy, Thomas Gillibrand, told The Dodo that the mare was taken to the county's 20-acre livestock stable and is being examined by associates from Texas A&M; University.
However, once she's healthy she will likely be taken away: Protocol demands that after 15 days, if a horse is healthy, an animal is brought to a local livestock auction.
As for the second horse, Gillibrand says the sheriff's office left him where he was, because even though attempts to find an owner were unsuccessful, there were signs of food and water nearby.
Schmidt says HHS makes a pronounced effort to keep the horses it is able to actually rescue out of the cycle of cruelty as best it can. "We don't want them to end up in another bad situation," she says. "Luckily, our chief vet was a large animal vet in east Texas, so he has a lot of contacts with older ranchers and farm owners and he will try and rehab them and find the horses a good home."
In the meantime, however, it's a practically futile situation. "If we could take them somewhere, that would make a big difference," Baimbridge says. "If we could call someone and say, 'We have a horse, can you take them for us?' And they said, 'Sure, we'll come now.' That would make such a difference. And then tomorrow, we could do the same thing. And the next day ... "
But for now, he says, he's simply trying to solve the problem moment by moment, saving the horses he can and reconciling himself to the reality that so many more will die.
What he needs, really, he says, is a miracle.
To help Houston Humane Society address the epidemic of horse neglect and abuse, go here.
If you want to help Captain Larry Baimbridge, his email is: Larry.firstname.lastname@example.org.