The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office was familiar with the woman arrested Wednesday after deputies .
The property at 9856 Pangola Loop has been a problem for about two and a half years now, Agricultural Unit Cpl. Gennis Folsom said Thursday.
Six loose animal complaints and four neglect complaints were received during that time.
Deputies worked with Ellen Marie Marek, a Kindred Healthcare nurse, in an “educational process," advising her to enlist a veterinarian and improve the property conditions for the animals, Folsom said.
After a few months of monitoring by the sheriff’s office, things seemed to get better, he said. Photos taken of the animals in February showed they were reaching a healthier weight.
But it didn’t last. The sheriff’s office received an anonymous complaint May 9 about a dead foal and a horse that had been saddled for two straight days on Marek’s property.
The responding deputy found no one at the mobile home on the property, but plenty that concerned him.
Four horses were in a back enclosure with water but no food. The animals were underweight, with their ribs clearly visible, according to an incident report.
A dead foal also was found, surrounded by vultures, according to the report.
It is unclear whether the foal was a day or two old or had been stillborn, Folsom said. Its mother was in the rear enclosure, among the animals in the worst condition.
Four horses and a pony in a front enclosure were not as thin, but had no water and just remnants of hay on the ground, the report stated. One of those horses was saddled and had injuries to its underbelly, Folsom said.
A goat and a pig also had no water in their enclosures.
The property itself was littered with nails, boards and scissors on the ground, Folsom said.
The conditions were “dangerous, at best,” Folsom said. “It was one of the worst I’ve seen lately.”
Marek, 52, of 4174 Parkway Blvd., was arrested May 9 and charged with cruelty to animals. She was released from the Land O’ Lakes jail on $150 bond.
As to why it’s taken this long to arrest Marek despite her history, Folsom said the agricultural unit works with livestock owners to educate them on proper care when complaints are filed.
Sometimes it’s unintentional and once owners are educated, conditions improve, Folsom said.
“But not in this case. ”
Marek had access to veterinary care and the educational assistance of the sheriff’s office, Folsom said. It’s unclear why the animals were in such poor condition.
“I don’t know if it’s financial problems, I’m not sure,” he said.
Ten horses, one goat and one pig were seized by the sheriff's office. The animals will remain at the sheriff’s impound facility until a hearing determines if the seizure was justified.
Marek is refusing to sign over the animals, so a judge will have to decide, Folsom said.
“I think Ellen feels she’s taking care of these animals,” he said.
The horses are now on a mix of feed to restore their systems and help them regain a healthy weight, which for those in the worst condition, could take three to six months barring any other health concerns that arise, Folsom said.
All of the animals will be out of the sheriff’s office care by that time, he said. If the court approves the seizure, they will be offered for sale at public auction.
The horses are responding well to their new temporary home. The first horse out of the trailer yesterday stopped to graze before his back feet were out of the trailer. Deputies had to nudge him along to get the rest out, Folsom said.
On Thursday, a few huddled around a water trough, seemingly content.