As 2018 drew to a close, South Florida SPCA Horse Rescue (SFSPCA) was teeming with a full house of 60 rescue horses and livestock (including the group’s first camel), straining the ranch staff and volunteers physically, and the organization financially.
Then, just before the ball dropped on 2018, all hell broke loose.
SFSPCA was called to assist in an animal cruelty investigation with Miami-Dade Police Department's Agricultural Patrol Division (MDPD), Animal Services (MDAS), State Attorney's Office and Florida Department of Agriculture at a property nearby, located deep in the heart of South Florida's agricultural area. There, we discovered over 200 farm and exotic animals in need of rescue due confinement in inadequate conditions, and lack of proper shelter, food and water.
While the number was astounding, the variety was extraordinary. There were horses, mini horses, donkeys, cows, goats, sheep, pigs, alpacas, a llama, emus, turkeys, guinea fowl, ducks, geese and chickens. SFSPCA personnel, with its veterinarian, initially identified and removed 19 animals in the most critical condition for immediate care. One – a llama – died due to complications from malnutrition. Three goats and a ram had to be humanely euthanized.
It took 17 long, arduous hours for SFSPCA, MDAS and MDPD personnel to tag, document and photograph the vast menagerie, then load, transport, segregate and secure them all at the SFSPCA Rescue Ranch. Ten donkeys were the last of the animals to arrive, stepping off the trailer shortly after 12:30am.
Overnight, the number of horses and animals in SFSPCA's care increased by nearly 400%, and earned the name Operation Noah's Ark.
Ranch staff dove into immediate action, creating special areas for each type of animal, including restricted quarantine spaces. The initial order of feed, hay and triage care items was staggering, as was the need for immediate and extensive veterinary care, which is continual and ongoing. Specialized and safe feeding and watering mechanisms are being constructed and installed to suit to the large number of animals of varied sizes and nutritional needs as well.
All of this is straining SFSPCA’s already strained financial and human resources.
What's more, there are several suspected pregnancies among them due to the large number of intact males, so the number of animals in our care is expected to increase. Meanwhile, we're still on call 24/7 to rescue any other horses and livestock in need in Miami-Dade County.
The animals need YOU. Please donate any amount you can today toward the care and feeding of these innocent animals. Their lives depend on all of us.
Statement from SFSPCA president Kathleen Monahan:
SFSPCA works in partnership with Miami-Dade Animal Services, local police, and experienced, qualified investigators and veterinarians. When contacted concerning potential equine or livestock neglect or abuse, we refer to the police and an investigation commences. There are cases where animals are underweight, but the owner is well-meaning and cooperative. In those cases, feed and nutritional education is provided to the owner, and follow-up visits are conducted to ensure the animals are receiving proper nutrition and care. In other cases, the animals are too far gone and a decision is made to remove the animals. In many cases, no owner is ever found.
Due to the ongoing nature of this investigation, we are unable to share many facts at this time. We can tell you that after veterinary examinations, the recommendation was that several animals had to be euthanized. And some died. We are dealing with a number of respiratory illnesses, orthopedic problems and other health issues and injuries. These may not be evident in the particular videos or photos we posted. We are cooperating with the investigation while taking the best care possible of all these animals. Our staff and volunteers have been working around the clock. We will share additional information when appropriate to do so.