GOLDEN GATE ESTATES, Fla. - Only WINK News cameras were rolling during an emotional animal rescue in Collier County. Dozens of horses found sick, malnourished, and starving to death.
Now, local and state agencies are stepping in to help, and some animals may be getting a new lease on life.
"It was a complete surprise, I had no clue," Golden Gate Estates resident Tina Ciancaglini says.
She had no idea Domestic Animal Services and the Florida Department of Agriculture were going to show up at her door step Friday.
"These horses are clearly very malnourished and very hungry," Amanda Townsend with DAS explains. Townsend tells WINK News the owner has been investigated since 2007 for not taking care of her animals. Townsend even recalls Ciancaglini surrendering horses to rescue groups before.
Ciancaglini says she was already planning to give up some horses Friday, "I knew I needed to get rid of a whole bunch of them because I wasn't able to feed them."
The owner says she lost her nursing job in March and hasn't had the money to take care of the animals. Today, she gave 7 of the 34 horses to a rescue group in Ocala. However, some wonder if she's hoarding horses she can't take care of.
Townsend explains, "When you have someone who tends to collect animals it's a persistent requirement that they be monitored by Animal Services."
Another Estates resident says there are more that need help.
"Walked the property this morning and found horses hidden back in another section," Debe St. John claims.
St. John says she's watched Ciancaglini's horses deteriorate, and has been trying to adopt some for years.
"I can't see this, I've gone home every night and cried, I tried not to cry here," St. John says tearfully.
Today, she finally got her chance to adopt one, a 2-year-old female, but she's in bad shape. St. John tells me the horse is about a foot shorter than she should be, and is pregnant two years earlier than horses normally breed.
The filly will soon call St. John's five acre property home. In fact, she'll be taking Bo Bo's old stall, another horse in the stable.
A caretaker for St. John's horses tell WINK News they will have to feed the horse slowly to put weight on her. It could take up to a year before she'll be in good shape.
Ciancaglini says she only adopted out a small number of horses in the past because she was weary they would go to a slaughter house for their meat. She plans to give up 10 more horses on Saturday. As for the rest of the animals, she will have to improve their condition by the time of her court hearing in order to keep them. DAS says they will be out there regularly to monitor their condition until then.