BASTROP, Texas (FOX 7 Austin) - A billboard is turning heads in Bastrop County.
It features an image of an emaciated horse that died on private property in the county last summer. The billboard is located off State Highway 71 near Pope Bend and reads “Texas: starvation is torture. Torture is a felony. Report criminal activity.”
“I did not expect to see that when I drove by. I was like, ‘Whoa, there’s Angel,” said Tondra Daily who brought awareness to the downed horse last summer.
Angel, as he’s now called by animal lovers in the area, entered Daily’s life only briefly, but he left a lasting impression. Daily was driving down FM 969 in Bastrop County when she spotted the horse laying on its side.
“He was covered in flies. You could see every rib, his mane and tail was just a solid dread and, at that point, when I saw what was going on up close and personal, I just realized he needed to be put out of his misery,” Daily said.
She and another woman stopped to give the animal water and reported it to the Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office before posting about the experience on social media.
“I didn’t expect anyone to get involved. I just was posting about something that upset me and that I didn’t really know what to do with and, before I knew it, everyone was involved, which is great because that’s the only reason anything really happened,” said Daily.
The horse died hours later.
Animal lovers in the area called for charges to be filed against the property owner, but Bastrop County Sheriff Maurice Cook said no evidence of animal cruelty was found at the ranch. The animals there are retired rodeo stock, according to the sheriff, living out their final days on the property.
In a statement posted just one week after Daily’s encounter with Angel, Cook wrote:
“The downed horse in the field was approximately 37 years old. The owner had the option either to abruptly terminate the horse’s life, or to allow nature to take its own course with a horse that was in its final hours. Some people may not agree with the choice made by the owner, but that does not make it illegal.”
“If the authorities won’t do something about it, the community will,” Daily said.
So the community did. Within a couple weeks, they raised $2,500 to put up a billboard along the highway.
“I’m hoping that, with the billboard, people wake up again and remember that this case happened and cases like this continue to happen. So I would like people to call law enforcement when they see something and I also want law enforcement to know we are paying attention,” said Liz Carrasco, who organized posting the billboard.
“There’s a law there. Texas has laws and they need to be enforced,” Carrasco added.
Although Angel didn’t live past that hot August day, his memory lives on now in billboard form. Those who know his story say he lived up to his name, reminding people driving by to advocate for other suffering animals.
“I think the more people take pictures and make reports, it will hopefully change the laws so that the sheriffs department has the authority to do something. I think in this situation, they did all that they had authority to do based on the way that the laws are written now,” said Daily.
Carrasco said originally the billboard was going to read, “Sheriff Cook do your job,” but the billboard company wouldn’t allow it.