Show Jumper Found Butchered in Florida

Owners in Manatee County, Florida, are looking for new ways to protect their animals after a horse was stolen from his stall and killed and dismembered, presumably for meat.

Manatee County Sheriff's Office (MSO) spokesman Dave Bristow said that on Oct. 24, deputies responded to a call from horse owner Debbie Stephens, reporting that in the early morning hours of the weekend, her show horse had been stolen from its stall in a barn attached to her home in Palmetto. She later found the horse's slaughtered remains on her property.

“Upon MSO's arrival, the horse was found dead, large portions of meat cut from it and missing,” the investigator's report said.

Published reports indicated that Stephens had recently purchased and imported the horse, a 12-year-old Selle Francais gelding named Phedras De Blondrel. Phedras De Blondrel was meant to continue his Grand Prix jumping career in the United States, reports say.

Since 2009, more than 50 Florida horses have been butchered. In 2010, Florida lawmakers passed legislation making it illegal to for anyone to slaughter a horse to obtain its meat. In 2012, the town of Southwest Ranches enacted an ordinance that levies steep fines and other penalties on anyone who slaughters a horse for human consumption in that town. That law stemmed from the theft and slaughter of a horse belonging to a town resident.

Earlier this month, the Animal Recovery Mission, along with personnel from the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office and other agencies raided three alleged illegal slaughter farms in West Palm Beach and Loxahatchee. Seven people have been arrested in connection with the raids.

But Bristow said the Palmetto incident represents the first of its kind in Manatee County.

As a result, horse owners in the area are not wasting time securing their horses and properties, said barn operator and horse trainer Rick Davis.

“We're all vulnerable here,” he said.

Davis said he is considering stationing someone to guard his barn at night and installing a buzzer system that would warn him whenever anyone entered his property for any reason. He is also talking to neighbors about ways to beef up security in the area.

“Maybe we'll get a security person to cover the area, maybe it will be something else, but the fact is that we are all concerned here,” Davis said. “Maybe if we're vigilant this won't happen again here or anywhere else.”

Meanwhile, the probe into the incident is ongoing, Bristow said. Anyone with information about the case should call the Manatee County Sheriff's Office at 941/747-3011 or Crime Stoppers at 866/634-TIPS (8477).

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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