More than a year after their rescue in Union County, Florida, two miniature horses are thriving in new pastures.
The minis were two of more than 75 animals, mostly dogs, rescued from severe neglect in September 2019 by the ASPCA National Field Response team in conjunction with the Union County Sheriff’s Office.
The only horses from the scene, the two miniature mares were placed with Citrus County Animal Services (CCAS) in Inverness, Florida, one of 12 organizations across the country that took in animals from this case.
“We wanted to place them in a home together,” says Colleen Yarbrough, Executive Director of CCAS.
Colleen, who has deployed as an ASPCA responder on cruelty cases and natural disasters for five years, immediately thought of her friends Jena and Joe, who have a 50-acre ranch in Brooksville, Florida—just 20 miles away—and own eight horses, including four minis. Colleen reached out, asking if they’d be willing to adopt two more.
Leaving Behind a Life of Neglect
Jasmine Holsinger, ASPCA Director of Field Operations, recalls the day investigators discovered animals on the Union County property, living in substandard conditions and exhibiting signs of neglect.
“Their basic needs weren’t even being met,” she says.
In January 2020, prosecutors announced animal cruelty charges against Mr. Robin L. Deen and Mrs. Marie H. Deen of Lake Butler, Florida, including 28 counts of animal cruelty and three counts of confinement of animals with insufficient food, water or air. Both were arrested and the case is still open.
By then, most of the animals had been relinquished to the ASPCA and many, including the minis, were flourishing in new homes.
Lifelong Horse Lovers
“From the time I was little, I’ve had horses,” says Jena, who operates a land clearing service with her husband.
“Colleen knows we have horses and animals and knows how we take care of them,” she adds. “When she asked if we’d be interested in the two little horses, we didn’t even ask to see a picture. We just took Colleen’s word.”
On January 27, 2020, the couple drove 20 miles to CCAS with their horse trailer to adopt the miniatures, ages 10 and 15 years, respectively.
“One needed to put on some weight,” Jena recalls. “She also required medication to stop her from stumbling, which she no longer does.” Now, both minis are flourishing.
“Horses that have been victims of cruelty sometimes just need consistent care and TLC to transition into great companions, competitors and champions,” says Dr. Emily Weiss, the ASPCA’s Vice President of Equine Welfare. “These miniature horses are proof positive of what kindness can do”.
Jena and Joe grew up in Florida and have four children and one grandson. Like Jena, their 14-year-old daughter, Vanna, is passionate about horses and loves to ride.
The family’s farm also includes pigs, cows and a pair of dogs named Jack and Jill.
Jena loves her two new minis and tries not to think about their previous life.
“It makes my heart hurt when people hurt animals,” she says. “Our pets are part of our family.”
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