‘We did drop the ball:’ Deputy didn’t properly investigate malnourished horse claims, Chitwood says

Horses were recently removed from owner’s Edgewater home

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – A Volusia County deputy ranger is under investigation after not following up on two horses reported to be malnourished at a South Edgewater home.

“We did drop the ball and it is unacceptable,” Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said.

On Wednesday, News 6 spoke with Ada Macey, who called the sheriff’s office recently, but Chitwood said someone first called the deputy directly in July, concerned about the horses’ condition. The deputy went to the property, spoke with the owner and examined the horses.

“He saw there was hay there, he saw there was water in the water buckets and the owner told him that the horses had some type of medical condition and they were getting treated by a vet,” Chitwood said.

The sheriff said somehow there was never a follow-up visit. It wasn’t until more residents called last weekend and flooded his email that they realized this wasn’t a new case.

"As we dug into it, we discovered we had been out there in July and it had fell through the cracks," he said.

Deputies also said the owner lied about the horses getting treated by a veterinarian. The horses hadn’t seen a vet since 2018. On Monday, the agricultural crimes unit removed the horses from the home to get treated.

“Upon examining the horses, on a scale from one to nine, nine being they’re in great shape, one being the worst shape you can be in, he scored it as a one,” Chitwood said.

The sheriff said once they receive the horses’ test results, the owner could face charges. As for the deputy, he believes the oversight wasn’t intentional, rather a communication error when he answered the call directly instead of going through a chain of command.

“I don’t believe that the deputy did anything that was malicious. I think this fell though the cracks and there’s a systems failure there that we need to fix,” Chitwood said.

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