The founder of Second Chances Equine Rescue is determined to find out what happened to her beloved gelding, Sebastian.
Andrea Doolittle set out to feed and care for her rescue horses on Jan. 30 and found that Sebastian had a sizeable wound near his front shoulder.
"When we found the wound we assumed it was a coyote or dog attack," Doolittle said. "But we didn’t hear the burros, they normally call out warnings when dogs are around."
Doolittle said Dr. Reece Myran of Countryside Equine Medicine and Dentistry in Pooler started to treat the wound. That’s when they realized it wasn’t an animal bite at all.
"Sebastian was shot," Doolittle said. "He was shot on our property."
During initial evaluations, radiographs indicated Sebastian had a fractured shoulder and loose bone fragments around the wound.
Last week Doolittle and Dr. Myran took Sebastian to the University Of Florida Large Animal Hospital for further evaluation and a possible surgery to remove a foreign object from his shoulder.
At UF they conducted a radiograph with contrast and the results indicated much more damage than originally thought.
"The bullet hit bone and came back out," Doolittle explained. "It shattered his C6 and C7 cervical vertebrae."
The damage inside Sebastian was extensive. The cost of surgery was astronomical and there was no guarantee of positive results or better quality of life for Sebastian.
Doolittle said after much thought and hours of tears, they decided to bring Sebastian home.
On Monday Sebastian was euthanized and then laid to rest.
"I’m angry," Doolittle said, noting Sebastian would have celebrated his 24th birthday next Wednesday. "I’m very angry…They are supposed to be safe here."
Doolittle said based on her conversations with the veterinarians and the autopsy report, it appears Sebastian was shot with a 22 caliber rifle.
Doolittle said she can’t understand who would want to harm an animal in that manner.
She said Sebastian was a loving horse that adored being hugged and brushed. She fears, that if this was done intentionally, the perpetrators might return and harm another of her horses.
Doolittle filed a report with the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office who is investigating the case.
Second Chances Equine Rescue is offering a $500 reward for information leading to an arrest. Doolittle said that reward money might go up as people send in donations in Sebastian’s honor.
Second Chances Equine Rescue is a 501c3 non-profit near Gum Branch. Its mission is to save and foster neglected, abused and elderly horses. Since opening in 2013, it has housed, rescued, rehabilitated and adopted out more than 140 horses.