A Central Florida judge said the sheriff’s office must retain custody of a horse whose owner was charged with driving drunk while riding the animal.
In a report by The Ledger, Polk County Judge Sharon Franklin said 53-year-old Donna Byrne was unfit to care for the horse.
Franklin also said Byrne must complete treatment for alcohol addiction.
Donna Byrne, 53, was arrested Nov. 2 on charges of DUI and animal neglect after she was found riding the horse on Combee Road near North Crystal Lake Road in Lakeland.
According to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, deputies were called to the area after a passerby reported that Byrne appeared confused and possibly in danger.
Deputies said Byrne reeked of alcohol, had red, watery eyes and was staggering. Deputies said she provided breath samples that showed she had a blood alcohol level of 0.157 and 0.161, about twice the legal limit of 0.08 in Florida.
“Ms. Byrne was obviously not in any condition to be on the road,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said. “She not only put herself and the horse in danger, but also anyone who was driving on the road, which is typically very busy.”
Authorities said Byrne was charged with animal neglect because she did not provide proper protection for the horse, which she put in jeopardy of being injured or killed.
Byrne’s attorney, Craig Whisenhunt, said he would revisit the custody issue at a Jan. 11 hearing regarding additional pending charges of disorderly intoxication, animal endangerment and culpable negligence.
Whisenhunt said he questioned whether the charges applied to Byrne, saying his client had not been disorderly and she was a pedestrian under the law.
The Sheriff’s Office said Byrne’s criminal history includes five felony and 10 misdemeanor charges, including cruelty to animals, drug possession and a probation violation.
The horse was taken to the Polk County Sheriff’s Animal Control livestock facility.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.