HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. – A pony stolen over a month ago is now safe at home with its owners after investigators say her captor planned to use her for a “party business,” according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
Penny the pony was reported missing on March 7. The 29-year-old mare was housed at Turkey Creek Stables in Plant City, according to a news release.
The term pony refers to a horse that is small in stature, typically measuring below 4 hands, 2 inches at the withers, the ridge between their shoulder blades.
Deputies say they were able to identify Joel Lopez, 18, as a person of interest in the case. On April 8, deputies from the Agricultural Crimes Unit located Lopez and later confessed to stealing Penny from the stables. At the time of the crime, Lopez was employed by a pony party business, deputies said.
Lopez was arrested and is being held at the Orient Road Jail in Tampa and is facing a charge for the grand theft of an animal, which is a third-degree felony in Florida, according to a news release.
Deputies said Penny was found uninjured and safely returned to her home at Turkey Creek Stables.
“This is one example of the diligent work our Agricultural Crimes Unit does to not only protect the people of Hillsborough County but also their animals,” said Sheriff Chad Chronister. “I am disgusted that someone would steal a horse for their own monetary gain. I again commend these hard-working deputies for their diligence to return this mare back to her home unharmed.”