Florida Deputy Charged in Animal Cruelty Case

A long-time employee of the Hillsborough County, Fla., Sheriff's Department has resigned after being charged with animal cruelty for allegedly neglecting Miniature Horses.

Hillsborough County Sheriff's Department Public Information Officer Det. Larry McKinnon said that on July 3 Dep. Pamela Belo surrendered four Miniature Horses to the RVR Horse Rescue in Riverview, Fla. At the time of the surrender and investigation, Belo was a 23-year veteran of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office assigned to the Community Outreach division, McKinnon said. She was suspended without pay and subsequently resigned, he said.

RVR Horse Rescue founder Shawn Jayroe said Belo agreed to surrender the animals after a veterinarian Belo called to euthanize a Miniature Horse that had allegedly fallen off a porch declined to do so. The veterinarian subsequently contacted RVR Horse Rescue to remove the animals, Jayroe said. Upon arrival, RVR personnel saw the other three horses, she said.

"We asked her (Belo) to release them to us," Jayroe said. "She agreed and signed the paperwork, (then) we loaded them up and called the Sheriff's department right away."

Belo was unavailable for comment.

A subsequent investigation by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Agriculture Unit revealed that between July 2011 and July 2012, Belo allegedly deprived food and nourishment to two of the four horses, McKinnon said.

"As a result of this neglect, one of the Miniature Horses died of starvation," McKinnon said. "The second horse is expected to recover."

Belo was subsequently charged with one felony count of animal cruelty and one count of misdemeanor animal cruelty, McKinnon said.

On July 16 Belo surrendered to law enforcement authorities and was incarcerated. She is currently free on bond, McKinnon said.

The three surviving horses remain at the RVR Horse Rescue, Jayroe said, adding that "they are doing fine now."

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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