HERNANDO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A Hernando County woman is facing several charges of animal cruelty after deputies say they removed several malnourished horses and a dead foal and puppy from her home.
According to deputies, after receiving numerous complaints regarding possible animal neglect at a home located off of Rochelle Road in Brooksville, Hernando County Sheriff’s Office Animal Enforcement Officers reached out to the animal owner, Jessica Wilson, in order to monitor the condition of her animals.
Over the course of the investigation, deputies say it became clear that Wilson either was failing to follow veterinary care instruction or was purposely neglecting her animals. She had four adult horses and most recently a foal in her care.
A release from the sheriff’s office says in the early stages of the investigation, Wilson was minimally cooperative. She did maintain sporadic contact with the Animal Enforcement Officer assigned to the case and did have her veterinarian, Dr. Sarah Quatman, come to the property to provide veterinary care.
As the investigation progressed, deputies say Wilson became uncooperative, refusing to speak with AEOs and refusing to allow them onto her property. During this time, the condition of all four adult horses continued to deteriorate.
Once the foal was born on the property, it was never observed to walk and/or thrive, deputies say.
According to HCSO, officers made contact with Dr. Quatman to receive a status update on the condition of the horses. Deputies say they soon learned that Quatman had not been to Wilson’s property or treated any of the horses for approximately eight weeks.
At this point, the sheriff’s office said a search warrant was obtained for Wilson’s property.
Deputies, along with AEOs and a contracted equine veterinarian, arrived at Wilson’s property around 8:30 a.m. Thursday to execute the warrant.
The sheriff’s office says they found three adult horses, all of which were in various stages of malnourishment. The fourth horse, believed to have recently died, was not found. The foal and a small puppy, both approximately eight weeks old, were also found in a shallow grave on the property, according to HCSO.
The horses were seized by the sheriff’s office and were taken to a rescue for immediate treatment.
The foal and the puppy were taken to the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine for further examination to determine the cause of death.
A court hearing has been set to determine if Wilson is fit to own animals in the state of Florida.
She currently faces at least three counts of criminal animal cruelty with the potential of more charges to follow.