A man who helped dig a kilometer-long trench through deep snow to rescue two stranded horses says the animals shouldn't go back to their original owner.

Dave Jeck and a group of volunteers spent several days trudging through the snow before finally reaching three-year-old Belle and eight-year-old Sundance last week.

The horses had been trapped on an icy mountainside near McBride, B.C., for about a week before rescuers were able to reach them.

Since then, the horses have been staying in a barn in McBride, but according to Jeck, the original owner has asked to get the animals back.

However, since the owner, who is from Edmonton, did nothing to help in the rescue effort, the horses should stay put, Jeck told The Canadian Press.

Snowmobilers first spotted the horses about ten days ago, but could do little help them because the snow was so deep. Both animals were severely underweight and suffering from frostbite when they were finally rescued.

However, the owner told CTV News last week that he lost the horses when they were delivering supplies to a group of hikers back in September.

The owner, who didn't want his name used, stressed that he went back to the area three times to get his animals, but the snow was simply too deep.

"It was sort of a hopeless situation, we couldn't even see the bottom of the mountain, we didn't know which way out was out," the owner told CTV News.

The owner originally planned to bring Sundance and Belle back to Edmonton, but the B.C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals took possession of horses and is investigating the incident.

With files from The Canadian Press