In the next week, two special animals are taking up residence in the Florida Keys. A manatee, dubbed Key3PO, will swim freely in Keys waters. A horse, named Trigger, has found a permanent home at the Monroe County sheriff office’s animal farm on Stock Island.
Key3PO was rescued in August after a severe injury from a boat strike; he lost nearly half of his tail paddle and several vertebrae were crushed. He was rescued in Key Colony Beach by Dolphin Research Center’s Manatee Rescue Team and the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and transported to Miami Seaquarium for treatment and rehabilitation. He has demonstrated the skills to forage and care for himself back out in the open water.
“Key3PO’s survival demonstrates the dedication that different organizations and the general public give to the welfare of manatees,” said Dolphin Research Center co-founder Armando “Mandy” Rodriguez. “His release is a true celebration.”
Key3PO will be released on Monday, April 24 between 12:30 and 1:30 p.m. in the canal behind Key Colony Beach City Hall.
Trigger, the horse, arrived in the Keys on April 17. He is the newest resident at the sheriff’s animal farm on Stock Island. He, too, has had a hard road.
According to the law agency, he endured a long and painful journey of 700 miles from South Carolina to Miami, ridden by his owner Christopher Emerson of Greenwood, South Carolina. (Emerson’s intended destination was Key West.) In November 2016, the South Florida SPCA was contacted by several concerned citizens who had met Trigger and Emerson on their journey and were concerned about the horse’s open sores and maltreatment. Eventually, officers from the Miami-Dade Agricultural Patrol intervened and intercepted the horse and man near a busy road. Emerson was arrested after officers inspected the horse, which they found to be very malnourished with sores in its mouth caused by having the bit placed in backward “for better control.” Emerson was arrested and charged but agreed to a plea deal in April and signed over custody of the horse.
Trigger spent months regaining his physical and emotional health on the mainland.
“Over the years, we have placed many of our rescues with the animal farm in Key West, where they are lovingly cared for throughout their days,” said Miami-Dade Agricultural Patrol officer Laurie Waggoner. “Their stories are used to raise awareness and educate the public on proper animal care, which is a cause very dear to us at SFSPCA.”
Jeanne Selander, who runs the animal farm, said, “We had anxiously followed his story. … We were hoping he would come to us, and he finally made it.”
Sheriff Rick Ramsay said he’s happy to have Trigger. “He is a wonderful addition to our farm; the kids and families who visit will love him,” Ramsay said.
Trigger is blind in one eye, and needs constant verbal communication so he can judge his surroundings and neighbors. The animal farm is open to the public, free of charge, on the second and fourth Sunday of every month from 1 to 3 p.m. For more details, call 305-293-7300.