Woman arrested again on animal cruelty charges

Jean Wilhite arrested after police find emaciated horse with open wound

By Scott Johnson - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - An Oceanway woman was arrested over the weekend on animal cruelty charges after police found an emaciated horse with open leg wound at a nearby ranch in September, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. 

Jean Wilhite, who has been previously arrested on animal cruelty charges, is charged with cruelty to animals and failing to provide sufficient food and water to a confined animal. 

Wilhite was booked into the Duval County Jail Sunday evening, several months after police said they discovered a horse with untreated, large cut that was being boarded at an Oceanway ranch on Webb Road, near Wilhite's home.

The horse "appeared to be in some pain as it had trouble walking. I observed a large laceration to the left rear cannon bone," an investigator wrote in the arrest report, which also listed concerns about the horse not being fed.

Wilhite told police she didn't have money to pay for a veterinarian to treat the horse. The animal was removed to a stable.

Suzanne Pagonis, who owns the land where the horse was found, said her son owns the barn where the horse was housed. He said the "cut was nothing," adding the horse "had penicillin and everything," that 
"the incident has been blown out of proportion," and "she shouldn't have been arrested."

In April, Wilhite was arrested on a charge of dealing in synthetic drugs. She pleaded guilty and was placed on 18 months probation. 

News4Jax stopped by her Oceanway home Tuesday, discovering it had been condemned by the city in the DART process, which is when a home is condemned either due to rampant drug use or unlivable conditions.

A neighbor, who did not wish to be identified, said she was relieved no one is living in the home next door anymore.

"I'm very relieved they're gone," she said. "I couldn't even take my son outside to ride his bike or my niece outside because they were doing deals right in front of my child."

Wilhite was also arrested in May on multiple counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty after police said they found dogs and rabbits in filthy conditions without sufficient food or water. She pleaded no contest and was sentenced to 90 days in jail. 

Wilhite, 50, has been cited 48 times by Animal Care and Protective Services for improper care of animals, including administering rabies shots without a license, failure to provide adequate shelter and having unsterile conditions. 

Gil Smith, News4Jax crime and safety analyst, said police do occasionally arrest people who have multiple animal cruelty citations. 

"That does happen from time to time. It's not necessarily that they don't care. Sometimes, they just love animals so much that they keep taking them in, they just don't refuse when someone has a stray animal. They just take them in, not able to take care of them and it gets out of hand," Smith said.

News4Jax contacted ACPS Tuesday to inquire what happened to the other animals recovered from her property, but has not yet heard back. 

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