Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Deputies seize malnourished horses from Land O'Lakes property

LAND O'LAKES — Deputies weren't surprised on Wednesday when they got another complaint about malnourished horses on Ellen Marie Marek's property.

"She's been on our radar for two and a half years," said Cpl. Gennis Folsom of the Pasco County Sheriff's Office agricultural crime unit.

They had visited Marek after receiving four complaints about neglect and six complaints about loose horses, they said. Each time, deputies said, she promised to do better. They even let her choose a veterinarian to instruct her on proper care.

But a visit this week proved to be the last straw.

Deputies went to the white house with green shutters at 9856 Pangola Loop. According to a sheriff's report, here's what they found:

• A foal, surrounded by buzzards, lying dead along a fence.

• Four horses and a pony in the back pasture. The horses' hip bones and ribs poking out from their hides. No food or water. Folsom, who had photos taken of the horses in February, described their weight loss as "extreme."

• A goat and a pig with no water in their pens.

• Five more horses in the front pasture. While not as underweight as the others, their weight loss was described as "noticeable." One horse had sores from having been saddled too long with a tight girth.

Deputies seized all the animals and took them to a pasture at the county jail, where they were given hay, grass and water. They also arrested Marek, 52, a registered nurse at Kindred Hospital Central Tampa, a long-term, acute care facility.

She faces one count of animal cruelty, a first-degree misdemeanor. Whether she faces more counts will be up to prosecutors, Folsom said.

"Our goal is not to put Ellen Marek in jail," he said. "It's to make sure these animals are cared for properly."

An unidentified person who answered Marek's phone said she wasn't available and had nothing to say. Kindred Hospital issued a statement Thursday saying Marek had been suspended pending the resolution of the charge.

"These allegations are unrelated to her employment with Kindred," the statement said.

On Thursday, the animals grazed on grass and nibbled from a large hay bale in the jail pasture. A nearby trough was filled with fresh water.

Folsom said they started eating immediately after being released from the horse trailer.

"The first horse only got his two front legs out before he stopped and started grazing," Folsom said. "We had to move him so we could get the others out."

A veterinarian is set to examine the animals today.

Folsom described the case as "moderate" and said the horses should return to normal weight in about five or six months.

The Sheriff's Office will seek a civil court order to keep the horses and then auction them.

"We sell them so we can recoup the costs of our investigation," he said.

Deputies haven't determined the reason the animals were so underweight. Maybe it was financial, Folsom speculated. He sees more of that in a down economy.

"It's certainly not from a lack of education," he said. "I have no doubt that she loved these animals. But she hasn't provided what Florida law requires."

Deputies seize malnourished horses from Land O'Lakes property 05/10/12 [Last modified: Thursday, May 10, 2012 8:34pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. CIA chief: Intel leaks on the rise amid 'worship' of leakers


    WASHINGTON — CIA director Mike Pompeo says he thinks disclosure of America's secret intelligence is on the rise, fueled partly by the "worship" of leakers like Edward Snowden.

    CIA director Mike Pompeo said the U.S. must redouble its efforts to stop information from leaking.
  2. ABC Racing kennel advances three into semifinals


    ST. PETERSBURG — The maiden voyage by Don Burk into the $30,000 St. Petersburg Derby series — his first as the ABC Racing kennel owner — went as easy as ABC.

  3. Why Grenfell tower burned: Regulators put cost before safety


    The doorbell woke Yassin Adam just before 1 a.m. A neighbor was frantically alerting others on the fourth floor of Grenfell Tower about a fire in his apartment. "My fridge blew up," the man shouted.

    At least 79 people were killed in the fire at the Grenfell Tower apartment building in London, and the toll is expected to rise.
  4. Bullpen melts down as Rays lose to Orioles (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Jacob Faria allowed his first two big-league home runs and was touched for a career-high three runs Saturday by the Orioles. Other than that, the rookie making his fourth major-league start did okay against the Baltimore bats.

    The bullpen, not so much.

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Jumbo Diaz wipes his face as he walks off the mound after the Baltimore Orioles scored four runs during the eighth inning of a baseball game Saturday, June 24, 2017, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) SPD118
  5. Lightning shifts search for defense to free agency

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — As much as he tried, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman left the weekend's draft without acquiring another top-four defenseman.

    Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman gestures as he speaks to the media about recent trades during a news conference before an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. The Lightning, over the past few days, have traded goaltender Ben Bishop to the Los Angeles Kings, forward Brian Boyle to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and forward Valtteri Filppula to the Philadelphia Flyers. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) TPA101