PALMETTO, Fla. (WWSB) - Deputies in Manatee County are looking for the person or people who stole a horse then slaughtered it in Palmetto, but there could possibly now be a person of interest who was involved in this incident.
Deputies have now obtained surveillance video from the property, a ranch on the 5800 block of Buckeye Road where the horse was stolen and later found slaughtered.
The unidentified male who is seen walking up to the stables around 11:34 p.m. on Sunday is being considered a person of interest at this time according to deputies.
The sheriff’s office says sometime between 5pm on Sunday and 8am Monday, the suspects in this case forced their way through a locked gate onto the victim’s ranch and stole the horse.
When the victim found the horse missing, she called the sheriff's office. Deputies and the victim searched for the horse, ultimately finding it dead in a nearby field. Deputies say it had been slaughtered for its meat.
“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.”
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.
“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. You can also choose to remain anonymous and be eligible for a reward of up to $3,000.
Call Manatee Crime Stoppers at 866-634-8477 or visit this website to submit an anonymous web tip.