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McClatchy Newspapers, Published March 05 2012

Starving horses, skeletons found on Florida site known as dumping ground

MIAMI - On Sunday, 11 horses found starving in a Southwest Miami-Dade field got a new chance at life when rescuers saved them.

Ten of the horses - now munching on clean hay in stalls at a Hialeah-area ranch - will get new names on Tuesday.

The 11th, a racehorse, was identified as Moon's Treasure by a lip tattoo and transferred Monday to a thoroughbred rehab and adoption center.

An injured dog found with the horses is recuperating at Miami-Dade Animal Services.

Authorities also found the skeletons of about six horses that probably died of thirst.

Authorities received an anonymous email directing them to the property. The area is known as a horse dumping ground where illegal slaughter farms flourish.

Miami-Dade property appraiser records show that Sandra Bermudez and Cesar I. Bedoya own the land. They could not be reached Monday.

The new residents bring to 72 the number of abused and neglected horses at the ranch, which the nonprofit Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of South Florida rents. It also shelters donkeys, sheep, goats, chickens, and a Vietnamese potbellied piglet that materialized on the property days ago.

Laurie Waggoner, SPCA ranch operations director, thinks that all five mares from Sunday's group are pregnant.

"They were loose with stallions,’' she said.

Waggoner thinks all the horses will pull through, even the old quarter horse that's little more than a skin-covered skeleton _ and had maggots in a hoof abscess. She thinks he's about 30.

So far, the horses have been de-wormed and vaccinated, and treated to free Purina feed by Mary Feed & Supply owner Lazaro Roig, who showed up Monday afternoon with 80 bags.

A veterinarian will check the horses Tuesday.

The animals were “fearful” when SPCA volunteers showed up, said Waggoner, especially one of the colts, who finally jumped into a trailer with his mother after four hours of “wrangling.”

Waggoner thinks no human had ever touched him.

Once the animals are healthy, they'll be up for adoption.

"If they've had training, they'll be adopted quickly,’' she said.

Farrier David Bustamante, 25, who helped with the rescue, said that the horses are fearful because “they've seen dead horses and dogs eating dead horses. They can smell death.”

He said he also saw a dead rooster wearing cock-fighting spurs at the site.

SPCA President Jeanette Jordan said that after 40 years in animal rescue - horses since 2002 - she still can't understand why people abuse living creatures.

"Lack of empathy’' is her best guess.

“If they could talk,’' she said, ”what would they tell us about evil?"