Investigators arrived at the monthly horse sale at 11:23am.
The auction was held in a dilapidated barn with indoor and outdoor pens and a dirt floor sales ring. The outdoor pens were in poor condition, some of the wooden pen fencing was broken and many of the pens were very muddy and covered in manure. No water or hay was provided, some horses had small amounts of hay given to them by their owners. There were approx. 26 horses and 4 minis present at the sale.
A horse trader from North Carolina (Geihsler Livestock, according to the name painted on the back of his trailer) had a group of 10 horses/mules consigned to the sale. The horses were tied to both sides of the trailer and several appeared to be in poor condition. A chestnut was covered in old scars and appeared to be very tired, standing motionlessly with his eyes closed. Next to him was a thin 12 year old mule, which had previously worked as a transport mule in the Grand Canyon. Eagerly grazing next to the trailer was a thin, 4 year old donkey, which the trader sold on behalf of a North Carolina Animal Shelter.
Investigators checked the inside of the barn next and found several riding horses in good condition, all held in individual stalls. A dark grey Dodge Ram 3500 with a long, three axle stock trailer with Georgia plates was parked empty next to the barn. Despite the rule clearly posted on the auction’s website http://floridaclassicsales.com/ that all sales needed to go through the sale office, investigators observed multiple parking lot transactions with horses selling from trailer to trailer.
The horse sale started after an extensive tack sale at 2:25pm. The first horse sold was a registered Paint broodmare, born 1998. The seller announced that the papers would only available if the sale price was high enough, otherwise the mare would sell as “grade”. She sold including papers for $250. All horses were ridden through the sale ring, some of the riders were wearing spurs and were not afraid to use them. One rider hit an “unwilling” horse quite excessively with his reigns and the auctioneer commented: “Oh, don’t do that, we have got some pony lovers in here….”
It was quite an unusual sale, since the vast majority of the horses going through the sale ring received no bid and was sent outside for further negotiations between sellers and potential buyers. The donkey from the NC animal shelter sold for $80 to a private individual. The friendly, 16 year old pony sold for $60. The investigators followed the horses that didn’t sale outside to observe the negotiations. Most of them appeared to be not successful and the disappointed sellers left with their animals. The North Carolina trader also had several unsold horses, which now would have to endure the 11 hour trip back to where they came from.