An abandoned, starving horse was found and rescued in a field in northwest Miami-Dade Friday afternoon, the third in less than a week to be dumped by its owners and saved by Miami-Dade officers and a local rescue group.
The Paso Fino mare, which has not yet been given a name, was taken in by the South Florida Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The group works with the Miami-Dade Agricultural Patrol to take in abandoned and abused horses and nurse them back to health. The two other horses, a Paso Fino gelding named Ransom and an Arabian gelding named Oliver, were found two days apart in the same area of southwest Miami-Dade near the Everglades.
Laurie Waggoner, the SPCA’s director of rescue operations, said the group found out about the most recent abandoned horse from a Facebook friend, who posted a photo of the starving mare to her page. Her husband, a surveyor, had found the animal while out on the job and had spotted another horse already dead nearby, she wrote.
“It’s just a skeleton with skin on it,” the friend wrote. “Please, please see if you can help this horse before this one dies.”
Waggoner said she called the Miami-Dade Agricultural Patrol, which went with her and other SPCA volunteers to investigate at 17451 NW 134th Ave. The patrol officers also called the property owner, who told them that the horses were not theirs and had likely been abandoned by someone else, Waggoner said.
Waggoner and the group quickly discovered the decomposing body of the dead animal lying in a patch of dirt south of the road, its hide stretched out over the bones. It appeared to have been dead for a few weeks, to the point where Waggoner said officers could not identify the horse’s sex.
In the adjacent property, they found the white mare, following a narrow path the horse had made through the thick grass.
“She was completely emaciated, her mane in dreadlocks,” Waggoner said. But “she was very happy to be rescued.”
The horse was then taken to the SPCA’s ranch in the Hialeah area, where she was fed and examined for other injuries, Waggoner said.
Abandoning horses in Florida is common, though the rate at which the rescue group finds them can fluctuate wildly. No horses might show up for a month, or dozens might need a home in a single week. SPCA has taken in 30 horses so far this year, and 60 horses — including the most recent rescues — are currently at the ranch, SPCA spokeswoman Grace Delanoy said.
In the summer, the heat and frequent rains can be an extra hazard for such horses, though recent rain likely saved the most recently rescued horse’s life.
“People do it all the time,” she said. “They leave the animals without water, they see all the grass and think the animals can survive, but the grass has no nutritional value. They can’t.”
Miami-Dade police are investigating the abandonment, but Waggoner says she is unconvinced that those who left the horses to die will be found and prosecuted. “Unfortunately there just isn’t any way to track them down,” she said. “They dump them at night in these rural areas where people don’t see anything.”
“People who love their animals, they figure out a way, they don’t starve them and dump them,” she added. An owner who abandons their animals “is just somebody who doesn’t want to be bothered.”
Waggoner said all three horses will likely recover, though reversing the effects of such malnutrition usually takes three to four months. Oliver, the Arabian gelding, was discovered with sores on his face and legs, which will probably need another two months on top of that to heal, she added.
After they’re healthy again, the rescue group plans to make the horses available for adoption, she said. The group is taking donations to help fund the horses’ care.