Out of the Sunshine into the Shadows
Florida's secret horse slaughter industry

At first glance, Florida is a success story for horses. In 2010, Governor Charlie Crist signed a law that made killing a horse a second-degree felony with a minimum one-year prison sentence.
Additionally, Florida's representatives are working on the national level as well. Representative Vern Buchanan (FL-R) has co-sponsored the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act (H.R. 961/S. 2006) , which would prohibit the slaughter of horses in the United States for human consumption, as well as the export of live horses for the same purpose.


This law and the proposed legislation both aim for one thing - to make our horses safer from the threats that so many of them face - abuse, neglect, and slaughter. But unfortunately, as Animals' Angels recent research and investigation shows, Florida horses still might end up in the horse slaughter pipeline.
Animals' Angels, supported by Front Range Equine Rescue, went undercover in the "Sunshine State" to find out more about the auctions and traders that might be involved in this predatory industry. Additional evidence was obtained via Freedom of Information Act Request.
These are some of our findings:
1. Jack Darling's Triple J Ranch & Kennel, Williston, FL
  • Jack Darling first made the news two years ago after selling ex-racehorse "Win Cruise", who last raced at Tampa Bay Downs April 24, 2016 to the Stanley Brothers. The horse, who had his lip tattoo burned off to conceal its true identity, was recovered from a Louisiana kill pen and later identified via DNA testing. The trainer, who gave the horse to Darling, was banned from the track for this transaction.
  • Recent documentation obtained by Animals' Angels reveals that this was not an isolated incident and that horses sold by Jack Darling can be found at Tennessee auctions quite regularly. Our research also proves that his horses often show up in kill buyer Jason Sexton's slaughter horse shipments to Mexico. 
2. Florida Classic Horse Sale, Ocala, FL

  • The Florida Classic auction is a smaller, monthly horse and tack sale. It was included in the investigation because Animals' Angels received several complaints regarding the poor condition of the horses going through the sale and the presence of potential kill buyers.
  • When investigators arrived at the sale, workers were unloading tack and other equipment from a large cattle trailer owned by Ben Gaines, a known Georgia horse and tack trader. The truck did not have a DOT number displayed-a clear violation of DOT regulations. 
  • Several horses did not look healthy. Investigators noted visible ribs, recent scratches, congested noses and depressed behaviors. 
  • There were two ex-racehorses present, a 9-year-old stallion with "bad" knees and a 14-year-old gelding. The owner of the stallion appeared very nervous and immediately approached the investigators when they took a closer look at the animal.


  • When the auction began at 2:00pm, there were a few known horse traders in the audience, including Norman Franklin.
  • The sale ended at 2:21pm, only six horses were sold. Both ex-racehorses were lucky enough to be purchased by private individuals. Two of the remaining horses, who were both visibly sick and emaciated, were not brought through the ring for sale. However, both animals were loaded into a truck that was parked in the back of the pen area, along with other animals the same buyer had purchased during the sale. The truck left the premises at 3:00pm. 
3. Ben Gaines, Tifton, GA
  • Gaines, who was observed selling tack at the Florida Classic Auction, caught the investigators' attention based on his relationships with known kill buyers, and our research has confirmed that some of the horses he sells at Tennessee auctions end up at Mexican slaughter plants.
  • When investigators visited his property in Tifton, they noticed that the barn was in complete disrepair, with large portions of the roof missing or caving in. Despite its hazardous condition, several horses were kept inside the barn. A sign on the front of the barn advertised "horses for sale". 


  • There was trash scattered throughout the property. A white tractor trailer was parked in the back.  A small pen, also holding horses, was visible next to the barn. Several of the horses in that pen were quite thin and looked malnourished. 
4. Norman Franklin Lot, Ocala, FL
  • Norman Franklin appeared on Animals' Angels radar because of public documents that reveal a long history of shipping horses to known Texas kill buyers and slaughter auctions. 
  • When investigators arrived at the facilities, the pen area was overgrown with weeds and covered in manure. Hay bales had been carelessly tossed into the pens with the bailing twine still attached, and the water troughs were dirty and nearly empty.


  • The pen fencing was in disrepair, with several obvious attempts to patch holes with  what appeared to be chicken wire, which is dangerous for large animals like horses.
  • The horses in the pen area were wearing halters, which could easily become caught on the fencing, especially with exposed chicken wire.
Let's get the job done

This preliminary investigation into Florida's horse trade is a clear indication of what an important role our community plays in stopping horse abuse and slaughter. Although Florida has some of the toughest anti-horse-slaughter laws in the nation, questionable horse traders continue to operate in the shadows. It is up to us to shine a light on these individuals, make the public aware that they exist and monitor their activities to detect violations of animal protection laws.
It is thanks to you - Animals' Angels friends and supporters - that we are able to do this important work. Your generous donations allow us to finance investigations like our recent trip to Florida, and with continued support we can conduct critical follow-up reporting and disseminate our findings to key actors. Please consider investing in our efforts to end all horse slaughter by making a gift today . Your support will directly fund our investigations and other crime-fighting activities. Thank you so much! 

is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, so ALL donations are tax deductible. 

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Your support is crucial to continue the fight against animal cruelty.   Animals' Angels counts on you!  Help us be there for the animals.

Animals' Angels works to improve the conditions for farm animals and horses all over the country. 
Our investigators are out in the field nationwide, visiting auctions, kill pens, feedlots and slaughter plants to uncover the cruelty and abuse that animals all too often face each and every day.
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PO Box 1056
Westminster, MD 21158

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