January 15, 2019

Union County Sheriff’s Office Announces Charges in Florida Animal Cruelty Case


Former victims of neglect begin to recover in the care of rescue groups.

With support from the ASPCA, the Union County Sheriff’s Office and local prosecutor announced animal cruelty charges against Lake Butler residents Cheryl and Richard Ervin for 37 misdemeanor counts and four felony counts of animal cruelty after 50 horses were removed from their property in late October. Additionally, Pablo Rivas, the owner of a horse being kept on the Ervin property, is also being charged with one count of felony cruelty for neglecting to address the animal’s medical issues.

These charges come after an investigation was set into motion by the Union County Sheriff’s Office, where they requested ASPCA assistance to investigate the conditions of the animals. Upon arriving on the property, investigators discovered dozens of horses living in inadequate conditions and exhibiting signs of neglect that required immediate treatment. Soon after, the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response and Veterinary Forensics teams were called in to assist local authorities with evidence collection and the removal of the horses. We then transported most of the horses from the property to an equine hospital where our experts conducted medical exams and provided daily care until they were placed with the following equine rescues:

  • RVR Horse Rescue (Riverview, Florida)
  • Equine Rescue and Adoption Foundation (Palm City, Florida)
  • Horses without Humans (Bell, Florida)
  • Hidden Acres Rescue for Thoroughbreds (Cocoa, Florida)
  • Kentucky Humane Society (Louisville, Kentucky)

“We would like to thank the ASPCA and the many law enforcement agencies involved in this complex investigation into animal cruelty in our county—we take these cases very seriously and animal cruelty will not be tolerated,” said Sheriff Brad Whitehead from the Union County Sheriff’s Office. “We have worked very closely with the ASPCA and thank them for their expertise so we could proceed with charges and prosecution. We have continued to receive updates on the conditions of the horses and the amazing job of the animal welfare groups that brought each of them back to good health.”

Year-round, the ASPCA is focused on ensuring good welfare for horses nationwide, which includes working to help at-risk horses safely transition to new careers and homes, increase safety net support for horse owners and enhance anti-cruelty efforts. Additionally, we support humane legislation and advocacy to improve equine welfare, provide targeted grants, and rescue horses impacted by disasters and in cruelty cases.

“The ASPCA Equine Welfare program is focused on helping at-risk horses transition to new careers and homes, and we’re grateful for these equine rescues for helping these vulnerable horses move on to the next chapter of their lives,” said Dr. Emily Weiss, Vice President of ASPCA Equine Welfare. “While some horses may need more time to heal, we’re confident that they’re in a better place now and look forward to seeing these beautiful animals stewarded into their next homes.”

We will continue our efforts to ensure justice is served for animal victims of cruelty and neglect, and to ensure that horses across the country live good lives. For more information on our work with equine welfare, please visit www.aspca.org/equinewelfare.