Deputies investigate complaints about starving horses

OKEECHOBEE — After multiple calls concerning starving horses, Sheriff Noel E. Stephens issued the following statement on Monday, Sept. 23: “In response to the allegations concerning abused horses in Okeechobee County, the sheriff’s office is conducting both a criminal investigation as well as an internal investigation into allegations of neglect. The sheriff’s office can offer no further information in regards to either at this time. We will do our best to keep everyone informed as we proceed forward. Rest assured that I will do whatever is necessary to make sure this investigation is completed correctly and in a timely matter. At the completion, all information will be released. This is an ongoing investigation. No further information to be released at this time.”

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News/Lori
This horse is dead, according to Lori. She said she called and called but no one from animal control would help. “I saw you sat and seen the blank look in your eyes and knew your were giving up,” she said.

Public Information Officer Michele Bell was asked if she would check on the well-being of the dog that was left behind at the home because there were reports he was starving, too, but was left behind, and the people of Okeechobee are not going to be happy if anything happens to that mastiff. Her reply was, “That should be addressed in the investigation also.”

This is a picture of the pony Lori said eventually starved to death even though she called animal control several times to report it was not being fed. She said animal control claims it went to a rescue, but she saw it lying dead under a tarp.

The investigation seems to have begun because a woman who calls herself Lori called the animal control office on Aug. 23 at 1:58 p.m. to report starving horses. She was allegedly ignored, according to her posts on social media.

This is a picture of one of the horses that Lori claimed was starving but has finally been rescued.

On Sept. 17, Commissioner Brad Goodbread posted on a Facebook group called “The Real Scoop” that he had spoken to the sheriff about the situation, and the sheriff was aware of the problem. On Sept. 20, the owner of the horses posted on the same Facebook page that he still had his horses because there was nothing wrong with them and he said a vet came out and said it was just old age.

Although she said she began calling to report the horses were starving on Aug. 23, they were not rescued until Sunday, Sept. 22.

According to Lori, she called repeatedly as she watched these animals get weaker and weaker, but no one would help them, and when they were finally taken in by Equine Rescue and Adoption Foundation, it was too late for one of them. One horse died Sunday night, Sept. 23, in Palm City.

Lori is concerned because even though the horses were finally removed from one home and taken to a rescue, she claims a starving dog was left behind.

Many area residents have expressed outrage after the death of this horse, asking “How did this happen?

Donna Robertson said, “The county officials that are responsible for investigating animal abuse and neglect need to be held accountable as well as the animal owners. This should have never happened.”

Mitzi Abney said, “This is absolutely horrific! I’ve seen all the other photos shared last week, and I’m shocked nothing has been done to save those poor animals. Shame on those county officials who did nothing.”

The owner of one of the horses and the dog posted on Facebook saying his animals are fine and he still has them as of last night. “Y’all people needs to quit being drama queens and mind your own business,” he said.

According to Lori, she has called about starving animals in Okeechobee in the past, and nothing ever seems to get done. She posted several pictures on Facebook captioned “RIP.” She said the pony next door to her starved to death, and she was threatened with arrest if she fed it. She stated she watched it starve to death and called to tell them it was lying under a tarp dead, and they told her to leave the nice people alone. She said she finally decided if these horses were going to have any chance at all, she was going to have to go viral so she took it to Facebook. She posted pictures of the starving horses and told others what was going on. Once that happened, she felt like there was a chance somebody might listen. “They just think I’m anal,” she said. But, she thought if a lot of people called, maybe somebody would save those horses. It was too late for one. “I’m fighting for them all and will not give up,” she said.

An arrest was made in regards to this case on Tuesday, Sept. 24. Click HERE for the full story.

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