County sheriff speaks up about animal neglect cases

Posted 9/30/19

OKEECHOBEE – After Bobby Travis was arrested and charged with animal cruelty last week, following the death of one of his horses and the confiscation of three others, many people were still …

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County sheriff speaks up about animal neglect cases


OKEECHOBEE – After Bobby Travis was arrested and charged with animal cruelty last week, following the death of one of his horses and the confiscation of three others, many people were still concerned about a horse and a dog belonging to another man accused of starving his animals.

A pony that had already died was also mentioned on social media by a woman who originally called animal control to report the starving horses.

Sheriff Noel E. Stephen said the first case his department was investigating was the one involving the horse and dog belonging to “Mr. Y.” The man had a poor horse and a bull mastiff that had been reported as not being properly cared for. Animal control responded to the residence and found the dog in good shape and found the horse in poor shape. The owner said he was trying to take care of it the best he could, but he didn’t have enough yard for pasture and not enough money for feed. Animal control worked with him for a month. The dog continued to improve, but the horse did not. The owner voluntarily gave up the horse to relocation. They are still monitoring the dog, and he is putting on weight. The dog is a big boned, older dog, and it has been hot, but the sheriff said his staff is comfortable with where the dog is now. The horse was re-homed last Wednesday, Sept.18. As far as the sheriff knows, this is a permanent situation, and the horse was given away completely. The sheriff said that according to the vet, it will take some time for the horse to put some weight on, but it is in no danger.

On Sept. 21, OCSO was involved with the case of four horses belonging to Bobby Travis. According to social media, calls were made to the sheriff’s office, and the sheriff’s office did not react in a manner that the reporting individuals felt was proper. Sheriff Stephen was out of town, but alerted to the comments on social media, he contacted his chief deputy who contacted another deputy. They went out to the property, and got animal control on the scene. Deputies found three of the four horses in poor condition and one in critical condition. They called a horse rescue to come get the one in critical condition, and they took the other three horses back to the animal control facility.

Deputies conducted a criminal investigation beginning on Sunday. On Monday, Sheriff Stephen found out some of the circumstances, pulled some reports, and found out there was some fault on his staff’s behalf. So, he started an internal investigation on Monday. On Tuesday morning, he received a resignation from the animal control supervisor, and then on Tuesday afternoon, they got a probable cause affidavit to arrest Mr. Travis.

Animal rescue turned the other three horses over to the horse rescue on Thursday, Sept. 26. On Wednesday night, they went out to the Travis property and got all the dogs, including a new litter of puppies. There are no animals left on the property except free-roaming ducks and chickens now.

Sadly, the sheriff said, other than from people out of town, he has received no information on the Travis case here. No one has called him. When he looked into the Travis case on Monday, he found they had started with the horses in March 2019, but a vet was never involved, nor were any of his deputies who are trained in scoring the horses on the level of malnutrition. They were not involved. No criminal investigation was ever conducted as these horses just withered away.

“It’s very, very unfortunate all the way around,” he said. His struggle, he said, is he doesn’t understand why, if it went on that long and nothing was done through animal control, why did no one call him? Why did no one call the sheriff’s office or tag him on Facebook before it got to this point? Why wait until they were starving to involve him?

“I feel that as open and as freely as they contact me on Facebook, and I’m not on there all the time, but I answer pretty regularly. Did she get ignored when she tried to report it? It’s possible. We are all human beings and get tired and run down sometimes, but I feel that in all that time, someone would be able to contact me.”

When it comes to the claims about a dead pony that were seen on social media, the sheriff doesn’t know anything about it. There have been no criminal complaints.

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