The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office responded to a tip and found three out of four horses that appeared underweight and living in a pasture at 16444 Winburn Place.
"This is animal feces in here and there is more in the tub," said one neighbor.
The signs of alleged filth and inhumane conditions in the home on the 16000 block of Windburn Place in east Sarasota didn't stop there.
"You can smell it and I've already bleached, so just imagine how this was smelling, the animals were not eating. There wasn't water. There's a kitty somewhere around here that is dying for food," added the neighbor.
Benjamin Watson told officers that he had the horses for about eight months prior from a Charlotte County horse rescue, and that their conditions had improved. But the horses hadn’t seen a veterinarian since they lived on their property, Watson had told the officer.
Deputies said Benjamin and Wendy Watson (Wendy Ottati-Watson) were given a plan on March 1 to increase the horses’ weight. However, during follow-up the horses were still found to be without adequate food or water and were still underweight.
"The 4 horses weren't being provided the proper nutrition and were severely underweight," said Lieutenant Daniel Tutko of the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office.
"These cases shouldn't happen; your horse or your cow shouldn't look 100 to 300 to 500 pounds underweight. There is no reason for this to occur. If you need help, there are resources out there to help you," added Tutko.
Using a scoring system of 1 to 9 to judge body conditions, with 1 being poor and 9 being very fat, the horses’ scores ranged between 1.5 and 2.5. The four horses were between 180 and 600 pounds underweight, according to the affidavit. Fancy had an ulcer in her eye, and she as well as Sassy and Clyde had tested positive for an internal parasite.
As for the Watsons, three of their four horses were signed over to the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office and placed on a six-week feeding schedule to restore them to good health.
The couple was allowed to keep the fourth horse as well as several ducks, goats, pigs, chickens, dogs and cats--news that has neighbors concerned.
"It's crazy to think that a nurse lives like this. Not just the animals but the two kids, living, breathing this! I don't understand how people can live like this. My husband was throwing up literally, that's how bad the smell is," added the neighbor who wanted to stay anonymous.
The Watsons relinquished custody of all but Fancy. In a verified petition hearing for custody of Fancy, the Watsons were only able to show for one receipt of feed in November 2016, according to the affidavit.
Wendy Watson said about caring for many horses, “We were probably in over our heads,” according to the affidavit.
This is the horse Judge Quartermaine gave back
County Court Judge Erika Quartermaine ruled in favor of the Watsons and let Fancy back into their custody in good condition in early June.
Benjamin and Wendy were each charged with felony Animal Cruelty: Failure to Act and Confinement of Animals without Water, a misdemeanor. Benjamin, 33, was arrested Thursday and released the same day on $2,000 bond. Wendy, 29, turned herself in on Monday and was released on $2,000 bond.
(WFLA - July 11, 2017)