SOUTHWEST RANCHES, Fla. – On Thursday night the town of Southwest Ranches approved what it believed to be the toughest penalties in the state to protect its horses from slaughter.
The new Equine Protection Act imposes a mandatory fine of $5,000 and up to a year in jail for anyone caught hurting or killing a horse.
It is called "Marco's Law" in honor of the Parga family's pet horse Marco who was found slaughtered just 200 feet from their home back in August.
It's believed the people who stole Marco from his pen butchered the retired thoroughbred for his meat. A neighboring rancher and his worker who found Marco reported that its hind quarters and two large sections of its back had been removed.
The cruelty rippled through the hearts of people living in the small equestrian community.
"When this event happened, we all felt like we lost a member of the family and this is what we can do and we are proud to do it," said council member Steve Breitkreuz.
During Thursday's meeting, former town council member and volunteer mounted posse member Don Maines took to the podium with his horse Hot Chocolate by his side to thank the town for adopting the new law.
The unanimous vote was celebrated with town leaders presenting the Parga family with a framed tribute to Marco which included a picture and a copy of the ordinance.
Marco's owner, holding his 3-year-old grandson Thomas was beaming as he told the crowd he was "out of words".
The best part, he told Local 10, is that Marco will never be forgotten. He hopes the new law will save other families from the pain they experienced.
"I get to look at Marco everyday in my office now. I am sorry that my horse is gone, but I am happy. He will never be forgotten - that's the best thing - he will always be remembered. That's the greatest thing, this is great," said Marco's owner, Suso Sangiao-Parga.
There is a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest of those responsible for Marco's death.
The Mayor of Davie also showed up to Thursday night's meeting. Judy Paul asked Southwest Ranches Mayor Jeff Nelson for a copy of the ordinance which she said she would like to bring to Davie.
Florida already has a strict state law on the books. Hurting a horse is a mandatory $3,500 fine and minimum of one year in prison.
Southwest Ranches Mayor Nelson and Davie Mayor Paul said they know there is a state law, but think adding a local law helps amplify the message that people who hurt horses will be held accountable.
"There is a state law but the town of Southwest Ranches will actively and aggressively prosecute anybody who would abuse a horse in the town. We wanted to send a message that anybody who would victimize a horse in the town of Southwest Ranches will be aggressively prosecuted," said Mayor Nelson.
They hope it is a deterrent. It was also a way to pay tribute to one of the area's fallen horses.
State Law Reads As Follows:
ANIMALS: CRUELTY; SALES; ANIMAL ENTERPRISE PROTECTION
828.125?Killing or aggravated abuse of horses or cattle; offenses; penalties.—Any other provisions of this chapter to the contrary notwithstanding:
(1)?Any person who willfully and unlawfully, by any means whatsoever, kills, maims, mutilates, or causes great bodily harm or permanent breeding disability to any animal of the genus Equus (horse) or any animal of any registered breed or recognized registered hybrid of the genus Bos (cattle) commits a felony of the second degree, punishable as provided by s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084, except that any person who commits a violation of this subsection shall be sentenced to a minimum mandatory fine of $3,500 and a minimum mandatory period of incarceration of 1 year.