I wrote the following blog in December of 2019, after the theft and butchering of 3 beloved horses in Florida. My post was shared over 10,000 times. I am re-posting it here, because one horse has gone missing recently in the Tampa area, there have been other thefts and butcherings in the state (and in good news, one horse was found alive, as well as another horse who was tied to a tree. Both were about to be slaughtered when they were found) and there are numerous suspicious activities still occurring. The bottom line is, we still need to stay vigilant and report anything suspicious to the police, no matter how small. Months after the first 3 horses were butchered, an arrest was made in one case and is still pending trial. Please be sure to visit the facebook pages mentioned below to stay current.
They Still Hang Horse Thieves, Right?
Stealing horses out of their stalls and pastures, butchered and remains left behind for the owner to find. This is sadly, a common occurrence in South Florida (Dade County/Miami.) Several monsters were caught and sentenced to jail terms, but sadly it is a larger situation than just 2 individuals. Because it was happening so often, Animal Recovery Mission (ARM) was founded to help combat the problem.
From time to time, a horse would be found butchered outside of Dade County. When Phedras De Blondel, a half million show jumper was discovered butchered at the Palmetto, Florida farm of Steve and Debbie Stephens, the news media took note. The warmblood had just been imported and had been at the farm only a few days, having been in quarantine. That was in October of 2015. It is believed that he was targeted at the quarantine facility in Miami and followed back to the Stephen’s farm.
Fast forward to this past Thanksgiving (2019). A chestnut gelding named Hot Rod was discovered missing from his pasture south of Ocala. His owner, Tammy Davis, found the butchered remains of Hot Rod close by.
Then, a horse was stolen and the remains found on December 2, just 2 miles from the Stephens farm in Palmetto. Surveillance video captured a person of interest, but even with over $10,000 in reward money being offered, there has been no arrest made as of yet. (It is this case that an arrest has been made in 2020 and believed to be connected to this incident.)
Then on December 11, Jayda, a beloved family member, was found butchered near her pasture in Webster Florida.
The connection to these three horses is the accessibility of I-75.
In addition, several horses have been reported missing over the past few months, including a bay horse in Oxford, just south of Ocala. Not only that, but there was an attempt of a horse being stolen from the Florida Horse Park while being stabled for one of their horse shows. Police were called, but nobody has been arrested in that case either.
So what do we do to keep our horses safe?
First, the obvious. Install motion sensor lights and motion activated surveillance cameras. Get the kind of cameras that alert you to movement. If you have an alarm, use it! But don’t install it near windows where anyone can see whether or not it is set.
Post signs! Thieves will typically keep going if they see signs warning of security cameras and/or dogs.
Thieves don’t like noise. So get a goose or 2. A donkey is another deterrent. And of course, dogs.
If you have wire fencing, if possible, consider replacing it with wood fencing. Especially back pastures that have easy access to roads. Patrol your pastures daily. Look for fresh tire marks where there should not be any. Look for cut wires, trampled bushes and other signs of someone scoping out your property.
Plant thorny shrubs along your fence line and make the fence line as inaccessible as possible.
Get to know your neighbors! Look out for each other. Tell them that if they see anyone leading your horses or attempting to load, do not assume that it is alright. It’s ok to be nosy!
Vary your routine. Thieves like orchestrated schedules. If you are gone, consider timers to turn on and off your lights and tv at different times. And if you are gone for an extended time, make sure your mail and papers are collected. Is it snowing? Ask a neighbor to make fresh tire tracks in your drive way.
Many thieves canvas farms by posing as potential boarders, students, etc. I would seriously consider asking to see their drivers license and take a photo of their car tag. Don’t assume that women and even adults being accompanied by children are safe.
Treat your horse as if he is your child and follow the same safeguards on the internet. Don’t reveal locations of your horse. Remove your address from websites and other social media pages. Don’t reveal that you are leaving town on social media.
Lastly, be diligent. Don’t be afraid to report anything suspicious. Don’t take for granted that the person waving to you while loading your neighbor’s horse is supposed to be there. Better to call the police and let them decide. And don’t be afraid to ask your local police to step up their patrols.
Lets hope that arrests are made soon and this problem goes away. I am encouraged that these 3 cases in Central Florida have gotten the attention of the news media. But in the meantime, everyone needs to be proactive.
Horse owners are reporting that they are seeing suspicious activity, from Plant City, Geneva, Sorrento Brooksville and Lakeland. A common denominator is that the person, who is usually Hispanic or Middle Eastern comes to the property under the pretense of wanting information about riding your horse (not necessarily taking lessons but wanting to ride) and taking photos “of the pretty horses.” Several have reported seeing a light blue Toyota Camry. This was seen in Geneva and in Sorrento. In Geneva, two horses escaped during the night and sadly were hit by cars. The owner states that someone had opened the gate in the middle of the night. While the police have decided not to connect this to the butcherings, it is pretty clear that these horses were being led out and escaped their fate, only to suffer another horrible fate.
UPDATE: 1/6/2020: Zephyrhills: barn owner reports dog was beaten and 2 horses had rope burns. Breaker box was turned off, lead ropes trampled in stalls, barn in disarray. Three sets of boot prints, one female and 2 male. Sheriffs office notified.
UPDATE: 1/14/2020: Horse owners are being vigilante! Please visit Florida Horse Watch Group and Keeping Florida Horses Safe on Facebook for updates. Because there are so many reports, I am no longer going to try and post about every single one, therefore, I highly suggest following these two groups to stay informed. I suggest printing out the flier on the Florida Horse Watch Group page (go to files) and ask local stores to post in their windows. Also, talk to your UPS/Fed Ex driver, mail delivery person, neighbors, etc and tell them what is going on and to be on the look out for anything out of the ordinary.