Horses reported slaughtered in Lake, Marion, Sumter counties

Law enforcement agencies from several counties in Central Florida are warning horse owners to be vigilant because there have been several cases of illegal horse slaughter recently.

“A lot of these horses have personalities and the owners don’t look at them like property,” Happy Acres Ranch owner James Moore said. “They’re pets.”

Concern has hit the horsing community hard.

“So, when you lose one for malicious reasons, it’s more than just losing a chicken," Moore added.

Detectives in several counties, including Lake, Sumter and Marion counties believe someone is illegally slaughtering horses on local farms.

“We have heard about it,” Moore said. “We are quite concerned about it. [Our] neighbors are, also.”

Moore’s ranch is located near Ocala. None of his horses have been harmed, but the Marion County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a case from last month where a horse was found mutilated.  All of its meat gone.

“We definitely recognize the fact that horses are an integral part of our community here in Marion County and we’re doing everything we can to protect horses and their owners and their interests,” Marion County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Cecelia Koon said.

The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office released a video of a person-of-interest in a horse slaughter case there. Detectives wouldn’t give us a possible motive behind these slaughters.

FOX 35 News contacted a representative from the Humane Society of the United States who said that since the sale of horse meat is illegal in Florida, there is a black market for it. The representative said some humans eat it.

The owner of Happy Acres said he’ll be stepping up his security. He is also keeping an eye out for anything suspicious. He wants others to do the same.

“I hope you are able to make the public aware of the problem, so that we have more people with eyes on the situation, instead of being in the dark,” Moore said.

Law enforcement also wants everyone to be on the lookout for suspicious activity. They recommend horse owners put surveillance cameras on their property and keep their horses in a secure place overnight.