The harm inflicted on two horses and a dog rescued in the last week was so severe, even the rescue workers who save hundreds of abused animals a year were shocked.
Two horses, each at least 200 pounds underweight, were found boarded up in an 8-by-10-foot stall in a Miami Gardens ranch Sunday afternoon, and a 3-year-old beagle mix turned into Miami-Dade Animal Services last week had muscle-deep lacerations running the length of her body.
The pair of paint horses was kept without food or water for months and survived by eating wood and their own manure, according to Jeanette Jordan, president of the South Florida Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which rescued the horses. Tacked-up boards prevented the mare and gelding from being easily seen.
“It was almost like they were being nailed into a coffin to die,” Jordan said.
Although South Florida SPCA rescues around 200 horses a year, Jordan said this case was particularly appalling.
“This is as bad as it gets for us,” she said. “There is a lake directly in back of the facility. They could see the water, but they couldn’t get it.”
Police found the animals at a boarding facility on the 15800 block of Northwest 57th Avenue after a caller complained that the animals looked thin. Police are investigating who is responsible and, based on preliminary findings, will bring animal cruelty charges, according to Miami Gardens Police Detective Mike Wright.
The horses were moved to a rescue ranch in south Miami-Dade, where they’ll take months to recover — if they survive. The mare, a 4-year-old white horse with a brown face, had untreated sores from a bacterial infection and is in critical condition, Jordan said. South Florida SPCA is trying to raise $10,000 to pay for basic care and treatment for the horses.
The horse rescue took place days after Miami-Dade County Animal Services took in Lily, a dog with deep flesh wounds covering 40 percent of her body. Lily’s owner brought her in July 2 and told animal services that Lily was jumping up and down on a balcony when she noticed blisters on her body. The woman had taken the dog to a private veterinarian nine days earlier, but said she was unemployed and couldn’t afford veterinary care.
Miami-Dade Animal Services Director Alex Muñoz credited veterinarian Maria Serrano with saving Lily’s life and finding a rescue group to care for Lily while she recovers.
The cause of Lily’s wounds is unclear, but Serrano said she has seen similar burns occur when owners put oil on an animal to control fleas and ticks. Instead of getting rid of the problem, it burns the animal’s skin.
“What makes me suspicious is she has these very deep cuts all around her back,” Serrano added.
“I see a lot of very nasty things, but the wounds were so bad that they literally made my stomach flip,” said Cindy Hewitt, a volunteer for the nonprofit Paws 4 You Rescue Inc., who picked the dog up from the shelter Friday.
Serrano drained the infection and worked to keep Lily’s skin from retracting, making her a viable patient for skin-graft surgery.
The owner will face a minimal charge of animal neglect, and may face animal cruelty charges if investigators find evidence of intent, said Luis Salgado, acting chief of shelter services.
Sonia Martinez of Marco Drugs in Miami donated $500-worth of medical supplies for the dog’s treatment. Paws 4 You is asking for other donations for Lily’s care, which the group expects will cost thousands of dollars. When she recovers, the group hopes to find Lily a caring owner.
“In spite of what has to be extreme pain, she always wags her tail, she always greets people with joy,” Hewitt said. “She’s just a remarkable little animal that really touched all of us and shows such an amazing desire and will to live.”
Miami-Dade animal services investigates more than 3,000 suspected cases of animal cruelty cases each year.
The most common are dogs left without food, water or shelter, and dog-fighting and poor conditions also come up frequently, Salgado said.
“Sadly, this is something too common. What’s alarming is so many people are ignorant or not informed — an animal will go days without treatment,” said Muñoz.