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Five horses and a donkey were nursed back to health by the SPCA.
Published Jan. 17, 2008

The donkey got a permanent gig at the SPCA of Tampa Bay. ? Faith, Hope and Promise are living up to their names. ? And Sammy and Aflac are frolicking in greener pastures. ? It's a happy ending for five horses that just five months ago were starving and living in deplorable conditions at a ranch in Largo. The donkey was in better condition. ? In August, after an anonymous tipster contacted Largo police, officials from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals seized the animals from the Rosebud Ranch.

They belonged to George Hale, who obtained three of the mustangs a few months earlier from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. He said he planned to find them good homes, but was just too overwhelmed with so many animals.

The explanation sickened Connie Brooks, director of operations for SPCA Tampa Bay, who said Hale merely had to contact her organization.

"He could have asked for help and everyone would have been there to help him," she said.

Six counts of animal cruelty were filed against Hale. His case continues and a hearing is scheduled for Feb. 14.

In the meantime, the SPCA Tampa Bay has spent about $15,000 to rehabilitate the animals.

"We couldn't have done it without all the help from the community," Brooks said.

The three mustang fillies are called Hope, Faith and Promise at their foster home, the nonprofit Wild Horse Rescue Center in Mims, where they've lived since September.

Two have been adopted and one is waiting for some nice folks with patient hearts to care for her permanently.

Hope, a 2-year-old mustang filly, was skeletal and covered with sores when the SPCA arrived. She had no strength to stand on her own and was locked up in a pen, where she chewed the planks for nourishment. But there's plenty of hope for Hope now, says her caretaker Diane DeLano, founder of the mustang rescue.

"She'll make a nice family pet," DeLano said. "She's very sweet and friendly. But she'll never be ridden. Her knees are calcified due to the starvation and lying there for days."

Hope will remain at the rescue center as a therapy horse for children with cancer. Faith has found a permanent home but is still living at the center as DeLano mentors her adoptive owner.

Promise, a mustang filly, is almost 2 and still waiting to find her new owner. Though she's now healthy, she is still mentally scarred and needs special care.

"When I got her, I promised her she didn't have to be afraid of people anymore," Delano said. "Now she'll come up and take things out of your hands, but she still needs patience and time and somebody willing to build a relationship with her."

The other two horses, Aflac and Sammy were moved to their new permanent home in December. They now live on a ranch in Citrus County.

Gene Sussman, who adopted the two horses with wife Janet, said they love the new additions to their family.

"They're doing fantastic," he said. "They're very easy to get along with, although Aflac thinks she's the boss of Sammy."

Aflac, a mare, gained 62 pounds under the SPCA's care. Sammy, a 3-year-old gelding put on a healthy 65 pounds.

"He's a paint with beautiful black and white markings, which we were amazed to discover after his first bath," Brooks said.

"He first came to us very shy and his best friend was the donkey," she said. "They were locked next to each other in horribly little stalls. The only thing they had to do was see each other all day."

The female donkey - to be named in a future SPCA contest - will live out the rest of her years at the SPCA Tampa Bay .

"She's a good little security guard for the other animals in the barnyard," Brooks said.

Brooks said the No. 1 goal of the SPCA is to educate the public on the proper care and husbandry of animals.

"Pets are our companions and if they aren't going to be part of the family, we shouldn't have them," Brooks said. "We should take care of them properly and give them whatever they need, including medical care."

Reach Terri Bryce Reeves at

Fast Facts

Want to help?

If you would like to report animal abuse or make donations to SPCA of Tampa Bay call (727) 586-3591 or visit

To find out more about adopting a mustang or to help support the Wild Horse Rescue Center contact Diane DeLano at (321) 427-1523 or visit


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