HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Florida -- It was a case of neglect so severe that one of four rescued horses died.
On Monday, autopsy results revealed the miniature horse, Warrior, starved to death.
Now, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office is charging one of its own deputies with animal abuse. The surviving three horses are being cared for by RVR Horse Rescue, a nonprofit run by volunteers.
Agricultural detectives from the Sheriff's Office worked quickly to determine that the neglect may have been going on for as long as a year. The horses were allegedly starved, dehydrated, and left outside in the heat for days.
Longtime deputy Pamela Belo has been charged with two counts of animal abuse, one which may come with up to five years in prison. She was going to be suspended without pay, but submitted her resignation in the wake of the charges.
"How can you go in your house and eat dinner and know that there's a little pony outside your door laying there and starving?" asks Shawn Jayroe, owner of RVR Horse Rescue. "It's been very hard, because [Warrior] didn't deserve to go through that at all. We tried everything that we could to save him, and it was just heartbreaking for everybody."
Two of the three surviving miniature horses, Lilly and Sandy, will soon be up for adoption. A third, Spirit, is still recovering.
To find out more about RVR Horse Rescue or to make a donation to help care for the horses, you can visit their website or Facebook page.