A horse ranch in Chipley has been working hard to save horses that have been abused or neglected, but the owners of the ranch say they're concerned there aren't laws in place to prevent the abusers from buying new animals.
The Eternal Freedom Horse Rescue is a non-profit organization that rehabilitates horses, neglected by their owners, and finds new homes for them.
But Eternal Freedom's founder says Florida law doesn't protect animals from further abuse at the hands of those same owners.
Stephanie Lynn and the staff at Eternal Freedom take in abused and neglected horses, nurse them back to health, then adopt them out to new homes. Some of the horses are in bad shape as one woman points out that one horse that has lost muscle, though some would think it is fat, which means that he will have muscle deterioration for the rest of his life.
"Without this place, a lot of these horses would have no place to go and they would not survive," says Amy Vanluven, Director of Marketing at Eternal Freedom. "Some people run into the problem of not being able to take care of their horses anymore because of the economy. They would have no place to take those horses, you can't give away a horse right now, horses that are given away often times go to illegal slaughter."
Rehabilitating horses is only one part of Eternal Freedom's mission. The group also works with 4-H, provides lessons in horsemanship, and, most importantly, educates the public about neglect and abuse.
"It's not always about just rehabilitating you know, the sicker, injured horses," says Coral Vanghel, an instructor at Eternal Freedom. "You know, we do also want to educate the community because we want to prevent this, not fix it."
But Stephanie Lynn, founder of Eternal Freedom, says Florida law doesn't make that mission easy. "There's no legislation saying that owners that abuse or emaciate horses are no longer allowed to own horses. So it's a repetitive cycle, we take them, they get new, fat, healthy ones, starve, emaciate, beat and then we get them again."
Lynn says the only way to prevent a previous abuser from buying a new horse is for a judge to issue a court order, preventing them from owning animals.