By Tamas Mondovics

After six months of hard work, members of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Agriculture Unit turned over six healthy horses to representatives of the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches. From there the horses will be transported to the Florida Sheriffs Boys Ranch at Live Oak to be cared for by youth at the ranch and become part of their equestrian program.

The destination of the now healthy horses is the result of an earlier investigation by the Sheriff’s Office of animal cruelty in Wimauma, which ended with the unit taking custody of a total of five horses

“The horses, owned by the same individual, suffered from malnourishment and mistreatment and were grossly underweight,” said HCSO public information officer Cristal Bermudez, adding that the Sheriff’s Office filed legal documents with the courts to seize the animals permanently, however the owner voluntarily relinquished ownership to the Sheriff’s Office without the need for the court’s action.

The Sheriff’s Office Agriculture Unit worked with local veterinarians to nurse the animals back to health at the department’s Walter C. Heinrich Practical Training Site located at 14063 County R. 39 S. Lithia. The effort came with a pleasant addition when one of the mares gave birth to a healthy colt in March, whom deputies named “J.J.”

The Sheriff’s Office ensured that all six horses will be in good hands, thanks to the cornerstone and pride of the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches and its nationally renowned network of residential child-care campuses, an array of cottages and villas scattered throughout the state of Florida offering a stable home to needy children.

Bermudez said the Youth Ranches trained and devoted staff are well-equipped to nurture needy, neglected boys and girls and provide a warm sense of security, guidance and tenderness.

Youth are cared for by “cottage parents” who help develop a strong work ethic, sense of responsibility, teamwork and respect in each boy and girl.

“The horses, including J.J., will be cared for by the young people at the Boys Ranch and become part of their equestrian program,” Bermudez said.

For more information about the program, visit


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