Livestock incident in Milton causes alarm

At that time, Marissa Brown and Emmily Girardot received notification that there was a stray mule in the vicinity of Marissa Brown’s house. The two women went out to the mule with a halter, lead rope and bucket with feed. According to Girardot, the mule did not seem interested, so they drove to a couple of houses nearby to see if the mule belonged to anyone.

“We did not come up with anything from doing that,” Girardot said. She went and got her horse, hoping the other animal would make the mule feel more comfortable. Brown decided to call the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office (SRCSO), who sent out a representative.

“He was very helpful,” Girardot said, though she did not get the deputy’s name. The representatives tried to catch the mule, but he ultimately ended up calling the independent livestock contractor. According to Girardot, who was the only one of the two women left on the scene at this time, the contractor showed up with only his truck, and Girardot was not told the contractor’s name at the time. When the deputy left, Girardot and the contractor continued to try and catch the mule. She said when she initially saw the contractor pull up in just his truck, she expected more people to be on the way, maybe with a trailer and experience in rounding up loose animals.

“He spent 30-45 minutes chasing the donkey around while he drove around his truck,” Girardot said. Then, the contractor tried walking around the mule, attempting to make it feel comfortable. At one point it even ate from his hand.

“At that point I offered the halter,” Girardot said, referring to the equipment she had initially brought with her. “He turned away the help that I offered to try and help the donkey.” Girardot noted that the contractor said he did not want to touch the mule because he was not sure how he would react.

Next, the contractor tried to get Girardot to leave the property, which she refused. He then went to his truck, stating he needed to obtain permission, though he did not state for what. Meanwhile, Girardot was calling anyone she thought could help, but no one answered.

“I didn’t have time to call any more people by the time he came out with the gun,” Girardot recalled. She said the mule just stood there, looking at them. The contractor’s first shot hit the mule’s shoulder—Girardot said it was clear the animal was in incredible pain. A second shot killed the mule.

“It’s an image that I cannot get out of my mind,” Girardot continued. She went to rope up her horse, a process which she said lasted ten minutes at the most. When she returned to the scene, the contractor and the animal were gone. “The only thing that was left was bloodstains on the ground,” Girardot said.

Girardot met back up with Brown, who called the SRCSO. Brown asked for the name of the contractor—according to Girardot, the man was identified as Philip Hayes, who is confirmed to be the independently contracted livestock officer for SRCSO. The two women recorded a second call, which was posted to Facebook. In the recording, Girardot asked why no one tried to bring a trailer in, among other things, in order to capture the mule. The response was that those approaches were not deemed the best course of action at the time.

“By far, it should have been caught,” Girardot said. “Animal control should have been contacted and made well aware of the situation. There should have been more efforts made to try and get people out here to try and catch the donkey.”

Tiny Acres NWFL, Inc., a local horse rescue, agrees. According to Rachelle Stewart, animals like horses, donkeys and mules get out once or twice a week. She said the proper protocol is to call Santa Rosa Animal Services and the SRCSO, as Animal Services is only for small animals, which is why a livestock contractor exists.

“With being the contracted livestock officer,” Stewart said, referring to the man who responded to the incident, “he is supposed to arrive at the scene in a punctual manner with the tools necessary to capture the stray animal.” She also noted that a veterinarian should be called if it appears the animal is injured, sick or neglected. “You can’t just euthanize an animal on scene.”

On April 13, the SRCSO released a statement on the incident. It states that the deputy sheriff tried to coral the mule, but he was unable to catch it. He then called the independent livestock contractor and was told the deputy’s assistance was no longer necessary upon the contractor’s arrival. The SRCSO later learned that the contractor, who was not named in the statement, had killed the animal. The statement asserts the importance of animals to the community and that they find the incident deeply troubling. The investigation has been assigned to the Major Crimes Division.

Girardot and Brown are taking action now. They are attempting to get on the agenda for the April 25 Board of County Commissioners meeting, which will be held at 9 am, to discuss the incident. “Everybody is welcome to come,” Girardot said. “Anybody who wants to support this.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.