PALMETTO, Fla. (WWSB) - The reward for information in a case of a stolen horse in Palmetto that was then slaughtered continues to grow, now reaching $13,000.
Centennial Farms Inc. of Palmetto and the Animal Legal Defense Fund are each offering $5,000 in addition to the $3,000 offered by Manatee County Crime Stoppers.
Surveillance video shows an unidentified man entering a ranch on the 5800 block of Buckeye Road around 11:30pm on December 2 and walking up to the stables, during the time deputies say a show horse was stolen, moved to a nearby field and slaughtered for its meat.
The victim found the horse missing around 8am the following morning and called the sheriff’s office. That’s when they found it slaughtered. A locked gate had been forced open by the perpetrators.
Deputies said the suspect or suspects passed up numerous other horses to steal and slaughter this thoroughbred horse, worth at least $20,000 and known to frequently compete in equestrian races.
“I’m disgusted," said Carol Whitmore, animal advocate and Manatee County Commissioner. "I’m sure most of our community is going to be.”
Congressman Vern Buchanan re-introduced the SAFE Act with Rep. Jan Schakowsky earlier this year, a measure that would permanently ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption that now has more than 200 co-sponsors and is awaiting action from the House Agriculture Committee.
After learning of what happened in Palmetto, Buchanan said, "The gruesome theft and killing of a horse in Palmetto to be sold as horsemeat is another reminder of the need for my bill banning the slaughter of horses for human consumption. I will continue to lead the effort to end this practice and prohibit the inhumane export of horses to Mexican and Canadian slaughterhouses to be sold overseas.”
“I’m totally going to talk to Congressman Buchanan’s staff tomorrow about this," said Whitmore. "I just can’t believe that there’s people out there who would do this. If anybody that is listening that knows anything about this, they need to contact the authorities because we aren’t going to put up with this. Two times is just too many.”
It’s a story that may sound familiar because the same thing happened four years ago.
A very valuable 12-year-old prize show jumper from Europe was stolen and slaughtered in a ranch in Palmetto, but detectives said they never caught the suspects.
“In 2015, a horse was slaughtered, butchered, and basically harvested for the meat and this case is exactly the same in that they took the horse over to this area where they killed it, likely right at that spot and began to butcher the horse and all that was left was certain remains of the horse," said Randy Warren, spokesperson for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. "The meat, for the most, part was taken.”
“When you have this type of a very brutal type of crime that has occurred, it grips not only just the equine community, but our entire community because people want to see whoever is doing this arrested and that’s our goal,” said Warren.
Deputies are looking for more information and say the suspects face charges of grand theft and animal cruelty. If you know anything, call the sheriff’s office at 941-747-3011 or, to be eligible for the $3,000 reward being offered by the organization, call Manatee Crime Stoppers at 866-634-8477 or visit this website to submit an anonymous web tip.