OKEECHOBEE — Olivia Campbell was one very happy 9-year-old on Tuesday, when she took home her beloved “Dixie Belle” from the auction at the Okeechobee Agri-Civic Center.
The 13-year-old bay mare, with a “DB” brand was one of five horses sold at public auction. The horses had been confiscated in an animal abuse case.
Olivia and her mother, Dina Campbell, had been worried about Dixie Belle since they learned she was in a group of abused and underweight horses picked up from Prairie Trail Riders LLC in May.
Olivia had ridden the mare at the (now closed) trail riding business and had developed a bond with her. She brought a photo of herself on Dixie Belle to the auction.
One mare and the sole gelding from the group also found homes with Okeechobee residents. While neither new owner had been to the Prairie Trail Riders property, they followed the newspaper articles about the case.
Olivia, already a member of Okeechobee County 4-H, is looking forward to joining a 4-H horse club.
The other two horses were purchased at the auction by representatives of horse rescue groups, which will find adoptive homes for the mares. The Arabian mix mare will go to Faith Equine Rescue in Mulberry. The Standardbred mare will go to Standardbred Rescue.
The $1,000 total from auction will help defray the costs the county incurred in taking care of the horses since they were seized in May, but it won’t cover the whole bill.
Dixie Belle brought the highest bid at the auction, selling for $400.
On May 15, James ‘Bo’ Sharpe, 46, N.W. 298th St., was charged with eight felony counts of animal abuse and three misdemeanor counts of animal abuse in connection with the case. The criminal case has not yet gone to court.
Sharpe is out on bond.
Okeechobee County Animal Control took possession of 11 horses in May. At the time, a local veterinarian found each horse to be malnourished, with multiple abrasions.
According to county officials, only five of the horses belonged to Sharpe. Three horses were wild mustangs that had been adopted from the Bureau of Land Management Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Program by persons other than Sharpe. The BLM took possession of those horses. The other three horses were released to their owners. The owners will receive a bill for the horses’ care while under county control.
In June, OCSO deputies learned Sharpe had more horses on his property. In county court on July 7, Judge Jerald Bryant ordered that Sharpe had one week to remove all horses from his property. Sharpe is not allowed to have care or control of any horses, according to the judge’s ruling. Judge Bryant also ruled that Sharpe is unfit to care for the animals that were removed from his property in May. The court determined that five of the horses belonged to Sharpe and that those horses could be sold at auction.
Since May, the horses received veterinary care, had their teeth “floated” and had their hooves trimmed by a farrier.
They were also given sufficient feed to bring their weights back to a healthy range.