FLORIDA -- A woman has been arrested and charged with animal cruelty, and a shelter has taken possession of a half dozen malnourished horses and donkeys after a neighbor reported seeing a dead horse.
Betsy Bloom, 48, was released from Marion County jail Wednesday night after posting a $1,000 bond.
Marion County Code Enforcement officials had filed a report with the State Attorney’s Office stemming from a complaint about the animals that were kept on 50 acres off County Road 318 on property her family once owned.
The land, which is a few miles from her home, was recently purchased by Al Boyle. Boyle told neighbors he was concerned about the animals.
Dr. Adam Cayot, a veterinarian who has examined the animals, said they were “emaciated.” Their coats “were in poor condition,” he said, which means that they were not being properly feed or maintained.
Code enforcement officials became aware of the animals in late March when Bobbie Burnes and a friend saw a dead horse on the property. They called the Horse Protection Association of Florida, which took photographs. Boyle then had the animal removed from the property.
Boyle, who could not be reached for comment, reportedly asked Bloom to remove the horses, but was unsuccessful, Burnes said. When she did not remove the animals, Boyle bought hay and other food for the horses and the donkeys, she said.
When code enforcement officials visited the property a few days after receiving the call about the dead horse, only six of the 12 horses remained, and they were malnourished, according to Ron Henry, a code enforcement animal cruelty investigator.
On the weekend of March 26, Burnes and friends Henry and Morgan Silver of the HPAF moved the horses - two fillies and two miniatures - along with two donkeys to the Windhorse Sanctuary, where she is the director and vice president. It shelters displaced horses, dogs and cats.
“They had parasites, worms, and one of the donkeys had rashes on his face,” Burnes said.
One of the horses was pregnant. A veterinarian was able to save the mother but not the foal.
Officials were notified that Bloom had moved the remaining horses sometime between March 20 and March 22. Burnes said she briefly spoke to Bloom the week of March 22. In that conversation, Bloom, who was accompanied by a man, told Burnes that she did not know who owned the horses and said the animals’ food and water had been stolen.
Henry said Bloom, who is a fourth-grade teacher at Reddick-Collier Elementary School, has other horses at her home. He said when he began investigating on March 22, he repeatedly tried to contact her.
The following week, Henry said he finally reached her, and she told him he could come and see the six horses. Henry said Bloom admitted that she wasn’t able to take care of the 12 horses.
“Other horses on the property were well-kept, except for one that was in fair condition. But overall, they looked good, so we knew she was capable of taking care of the neglected horses,” Henry said.
According to Laurie Waggoner, director of the South Florida Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Bloom’s father, Andrew Bloom, was arrested two years ago and charged with multiple counts of animal cruelty for neglecting 131 animals at his residence.
Waggoner said officials in south Florida confiscated horses, pigs, chickens, pigs, cows, exotic birds and other animals from the residence. Since that incident, Waggoner said, a civil hearing gave some of the animals to their organization and gave the rest to another animal agency.
Calls to Betsy Bloom’s home were not returned.
Marion County School Board spokesperson Kevin Christian said Bloom has a master’s degree in early childhood education and has 22 years of teaching experience.
(Ocala.com - April 16, 2004)