PALMETTO - Neighbors are alarmed with a disturbing case of animal cruelty in Palmetto. A horse is stolen and slaughtered for its meat in Manatee County. Neighbor, Scott Nettleton owns five horses himself and says it's concerning to him because it’s a half-mile away. He couldn’t imagine losing one of his own.

"If I came out, and my old mare was gone, I would be in a panic," Scott Nettleton said. "And, it would be like losing a family member.”

Deputies say it happened sometime between Saturday evening and Sunday morning. They believe thieves broke into a locked gate in the 5800 Block of Buckeye Road, walked the horse out of the property and slaughtered the horse in a nearby field.

Randy Warren with the Manatee County Sheriff says this isn’t the first time this has happened. Back in October of 2015 and even last week in Ocala, similar cases occurred. Warren says these people are probably looking for a specific type of horse.

"These appear to be people looking for horses that arethorough bread," Randy Warren said. "That are possibly champion-style horses. And, they’re looking for it, just to kill them to take the meat.”

Deputies aren’t sure if there is a market for horse meat, but Nettleton, says it exists.

"It’s a black market," Nettleton said. "The U.S. market no longer does horse meat, horse slaughter, the industry is closed. So, that’s their alternatives.”

While it is out there, this is not something that happens often. So, it’s important to take precautions.

"Make sure they’re not leaving them out in a field too far away, have security systems," Warren said. 

Nettleton says he's planning on putting up surveillance video

"I’ve never really had to do that to my barn area," Nettleton said. "But they’re seriously making me think about it now.”

Detectives are working on a variety of leads because grand theft and animal cruelty occurred. After the passing of the federal bill on Animal cruelty, serious charges are at stake.

Deputies are still investigating. If anyone has information on this case, you can contact Manatee County Sheriff’s Office at (941) 747-3011 or Crime Stoppers at (866) 634-TIPS.