MARCH AGAINST HORSE SLAUGHTER — Three killings and butcherings in late 2019, and the array of alarming incidents that followed thereafter, have rocked the equestrian community in Central Florida.
No culprits have been caught. It continues unabated. Horses are still being preyed upon. Evidence shows that horses are being butchered while still alive as there is no time to fully bleed them out.
Florida law enforcement calls on horse owners to continue to stay on their guard. These crimes are not over.
Reporting in February 2020 for the Tampa Bay Times, Jack Evans writes:
. . . slaughter had been on the minds of many in the Central Florida horse community lately. In the span of a couple of weeks, horses in three counties had been stolen, killed and butchered, ravaged bodies or severed heads left behind. The news rattled owners and caretakers who feared they’d be next.
The first body was found on Thanksgiving Day in a pasture south of Ocala. It belonged to HotRod, a 21-year-old paint gelding, according to news reports. Someone had removed his skin. The cuts were clean.
Four days later, someone forced through a locked gate on a farm in Palmetto and stole a horse. One of the owners found the horse butchered in a nearby field, said Steve Stephens, a friend and neighbor. In an incident report, Manatee County Sheriff’s deputies wrote that the killers had “harvested most of the meat.”
Then, on December 11, a Bushnell horse boarder woke to find that one of the horses on her property, 11-year-old Jayda, was missing. She followed tracks and droppings across the street and through a cut fence onto another property, until she reached a creek a half-mile in. Knowing Jayda feared water, she followed the edge of the creek to a hastily constructed pile of branches. Underneath, she found the horse’s mangled corpse.
On Facebook, frightened horse owners posted about unsettling incidents in other counties.
Kristine Wake, a Central Florida mortgage broker who has owned horses for more than 30 years, watched the posts. She belonged to a few Facebook groups for area horse lovers, and she was friends with many in the horse community. But it was hard to keep up with so many sources of information, hard to tell what was new or old, to distinguish what was legitimate from what wasn’t.
So Wake created a Facebook group, Keeping Florida Horses Safe, to keep track of all the suspicious-activity reports. She planned to send each of them to law enforcement agencies, knowing that many horse owners would complain on Facebook but never go through official channels.
Within three weeks, the page had 3,000 members and hundreds of more requests awaiting approval.
Some posters advocated for a shoot-first, ask-questions-later approach to deterring horse thieves. Wake had to urge the group to stay vigilant but not become vigilantes.
“I worry that someone is going to take the law into their own hands,” she said, “and the law isn’t going to protect them.”
There’s much more to the report we quoted from above. It is an in-depth article full of information. Read it here.
This is a critical, ongoing issue. Check out the most recent postings at Keeping Florida Horses Safe on Facebook. Suspicious activity has been reported already today. As suggested, attempts to steal and butcher horses may increase during the virus scare; the killers may be getting desperate for money. Let’s keep horses and their owners in our prayers, and safe.
In the meantime, a reward of up to $13,000 is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for stealing and slaughtering a horse during the overnight hours of December 1st and 2nd in the 5800 block of Buckeye Road in Palmetto, Florida. See more.