Filing charges tricky in starving horses case

Prosecutors say evidence of abuse must be found

By Christina Vazquez - Reporter

SOUTHWEST RANCHES, Fla. - Police and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals are working to track down the owner of another thoroughbred racehorse found emaciated and starving. 

Foolish Treasure is the fifth horse found in this condition in the past week. 

Rescuers said that as a racehorse, Foolish Treasure was probably groomed almost daily. But years after her final run at Tampa Bay Downs, Foolish Treasure was found alone, starving and hurt, wandering around Homestead. 

"It took this horse a long time to get into this condition," said Jeanette Jordan, of the SPCA. "This doesn't happen overnight. Someone watched her starve. I would like to see someone go to jail for this." 

Jordan told Local 10 Monday that according to veterinarian Dr. Nathan Heidbrink, the prognosis for Foolish Treasure is not good. An untreated injury to her left hind leg resulted in an infection of the bone and tendon. Heidbrink will consult with a surgeon to see if surgery is an option for the horse, however, he thinks it's unlikely.

Foolish Treasure is one of five thoroughbreds rescued in as many days. 

A website called shows who last owned and trained the horses, but the State Attorney's Office said that's not enough to understand if a crime was committed and by whom. 

In each case, Local 10 found that the record of ownership ends along with the horse's racing career. 

WATCH:What happens when racehorses retire

To convict someone of animal cruelty, prosecutors have to prove that someone knowingly abused the horse or denied it food and water. Without documented evidence in the form of pictures, video or eyewitness testimony, that can be tricky. Not knowing who owned them last makes it even harder. 

Miami-Dade police said they are still investigating as rescuers work to undo the damage done by months, if not years, of neglect. 

"She knows she's been rescued," Jordan said. "She's very special to us, and we will be special to her." 

Duayne Didericksen, who has been in the horseracing industry for more than 55 years, said that for those who care for them, the horses are more than just a commodity; they're family. He said many owners and trainers work with nonprofit organizations to offer former racehorses a second career as trail horses, police horses, rodeo horses or therapy horses. 

PHOTOS: Well-maintained horses at Hialeah Park

An example of a retirement program for former racehorses is in Southwest Ranches. Celia Fawkes of Florida Trac takes in thoroughbreds from Calder and Gulfstream Park, and she said her horses have a "lifetime contract" to make sure they never end up hungry, abused or alone.

WATCH: Web Extra- Interview with Celia Fawkes

Copyright 2012 by Post Newsweek. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.