Photo by SUZETTE COOK/Alachua County Today

Seven cows recently escaped and started to cross CR 235 in Alachua, above. ACSO Rural Services Deputies Brandon Jones, left, and Perry Koon, right,  take care of livestock emergencies in Alachua County.

ALACHUA COUNTY – The three horses hanging out at the Alachua County Rural Services facility in LaCrosse are afraid of the cow on the other side of the pasture. The black and white heifer has escaped five times now, so Alachua County Sheriff’s Office Rural Services Deputies Brandon Jones and Perry Koon finally picked her up for her own good. Now, since the horses have no experience with cows, they are a little freaked out by their new surroundings and fellow livestock cohabitant.

 Two of the horses are there because they got loose and were found wandering around High Springs. The third horse nicknamed “Little Bit” was malnourished and scooped up so the ACSO could save her life.

On a 30-acre parcel in LaCrosse known as the Rural Services Animal Impound Lot, Jones and Perry have built a refuge for livestock ranging from pot bellied pigs to goats to horses. The deputies are on call for any livestock emergencies in Alachua County and equipped to handle just about any situation.

“If you’ve got livestock, they’re going to get out from time to time,” Deputy Koon said. “Even with the best of fences. Our ultimate goal is just to get animals back where they belong. Or in a case when they are being mistreated, get them out of that situation, and find them a permanent home where someone is actually going to take care of them.”

For 8 years, Jones and Koon have been serving local property owners, farmers and Alachua County residents who come across livestock emergencies.

They are dressed and equipped for the job. Koon in his Stetson hat and Jones in his Resistol, both are wearing Wranglers, boots and they have 4-wheel drive trucks with winches, four wheelers and a feed supply.

“That’s what I use to try to catch them with,” Jones said about the food supply. They also have lariat ropes, whips, portable panels to set up to make temporary pens, lead ropes and halters for guiding captured livestock.

Koon, who said he has been with the ACSO for 14 years, grew up in Williston where he took vocational agriculture classes in high school and participated in youth fairs.

Jones said he grew up in between Newberry and Alachua and helped out on his grandfather’s farm.

“We’ve had the opportunity to do area specific training,” Koon said about how he got prepared to be a rural services deputy. But he said he learned more about livestock by “flat out getting out and working with animals. It’s animal behavior that we really specialize in. When we are out by the side of the road, we have no idea what that animal is used to, you don’t know what experiences it’s had leading up to now, it’s on the side of the road.”

Jones and Koon often get called out to check on suspected abuse and they get dispatched when livestock escape and put themselves and drivers or residents in danger.

“It’s just two of us. It’s a big county,” Koon said about why Alachua County residents are encouraged to call in livestock emergencies by dialing (352)-955-1818. “Without people calling in, there might be something tucked away somewhere and we had no idea.”

“Yesterday it was a cow,” Koon said. “We had 12 goats three weeks ago.

“We get a lot of calls to come out and evaluate animals and large birds. We got out with a couple of emus a month or so ago and I didn’t know they made that thumping noise with their neck,” Koon said. “I made a thump on my neck and one of them shook its head and started walking toward me.”

When the deputies arrive on a scene they said they have little time to access animal behavior.

“So we’ve got to pretty quickly read the animal,” said Koon. “Is it in flight mode? Is it calm? Then we do everything we can to keep it calm or get it to that calm point so that we can get it,” Koon said.

Locating the owners

The deputies use software to track registered livestock from a data base, which they said helps them narrow down the list of possible owner of loose livestock. Owners of livestock can call the ACSO and register their livestock by giving their name, address, herd size and contact information.

Jones advises to “call the sheriff’s office give them an address the kind of livestock you have and how many. What they do with that information, he added, is they enter it into our CAD system and mapping system.

With a click on a layer, Jones said he can see icons and when he clicks on the icons they reveal the owners’ names and contact numbers.

When livestock get loose, the deputies can call the information up on a screen that maps out where the registered herds are. If a set of escaped livestock matches the description of the registered herd, they can’t get the animals back home quicker.

 “We have the whole county,” Koon said. “We’ve picked goats up in Gainesville, pot bellied pigs. People don’t know what they are getting into with them. Caught an emu near the race track.”

Once an animal is impounded the deputies feed and care for it until the owners are found or until the animal is adopted through an “adoption auction.”

“That’s what a lot of our animals wind up becoming,” Koon said. “Pets for someone.”

The deputies said their main goal is to unite lost livestock with owners and rescue livestock that needs help.

“We try hard not to files charges,” Koon said. “Technically, it’s a county ordinance violation or in some cases if they’re out in the roadway, it’s a State Statute violation for them being at large. We try to work with animal and property owners, because we know there’s nothing that’s 100 percent.” Ill-repair on damaged fences or fallen trees from storms play a key role in livestock escapes, Koon added.

“It’s when it becomes 5 and 6 times, that’s no longer occasionally. Then we have the authority to do what we have to do to try to resolve the problem for the safety of the general public,” Koon said.

The fees that owners of impounded livestock face or a flat impound fee of $50, mileage hauled, a $5 disposition fee, and a $5 per day per head for feed and care.

Koon said if the owners of loose livestock aren’t found right away “We impound them and after about three days, we’ll run an ad that we’re going to auction it and serves as notice to the owner. If they fail to come down, we hold a public auction.”

Livestock on the loose

If you come across loose livestock, the deputies have these recommendations on what to do next.

“Contact us at 352-955-1818 directly to dispatch. If you can sit with your flashers on, get in a safe spot and try to help warn other people, that is important. “

Interact with them only “if you’re familiar with them,” otherwise Koon says to be careful since livestock can be unpredictable.

“Maintain a distance so the animal doesn’t get scared by the vehicle. They may run off before we get there. An animal in the roadway constitutes a serious safety concern to the public. If I’m the first one dispatched, I am going to run lights and sirens to get there as quickly and safely as possible.”

Koon said they have called on private citizens to help out in an emergency and are thankful that local ranchers pitch in when called on.

“When there’s no one else, we can call some private citizens when livestock is in the road,” said Koon.

Two years ago, a trailer load of bulls ran off the freeway,” Jones recalled and remembered thinking “This is bigger than we are.” So they called upon private cowboys from the community for help.”

Jones said they ended up roping all but one of the 32 bulls and they appreciated the help from locals. The last bull was hostile and aggressive attacking officers and was put down on the scene.

“A lot of our contacts become close relationships,” Koon said about how they came to enlist the help of local farmers and livestock handlers. “It’s just part of what we do as a liaison between the farming and ranching community and law enforcement. We try to meet in the middle.”

The Rural Services unit started with $9,000 in seed money, Koon said.

“That built us the barn and the cow pens and let us do a little cross fencing. After the sheriff saw what we had, it didn’t take much for her approve putting electricity and a well in.”

Sheriff Sadie Darnell says the unit plays a crucial role for the citizens of Alachua County.

“The Rural Services Unit plays an important part between the agriculture and law enforcement community. By working together with farmers and ranchers we can address unique needs that many times go unnoticed by deputies working zone assignments. This partnership has been a win-win for everyone involved in agriculture in Alachua County.”

Future plans for the deputies include collaborating  with the Florida Agriculture Crime Intelligence Unit [FACIU] “We’re working on getting more involvement from the north counties,” Koon said. “They do the same job in their communities but some work with citrus groves and palmetto berries trespassing.”

In the meantime, the deputies continue to make safety and uniting livestock with responsible owners a priority.

“Everybody’s afraid that we euthanize animals if we don’t find a home for them,” Koon said. “For all of the animals we’ve had, and here lately we’ve been pretty busy with animals, that has never happened.

Since the three horses in the pasture still won’t go drink from their water trough, Jones and Koon grabbed a tub and filled it up with water out of view of that cow. The horses came over to drink immediately.

Jones said they had come up with names of the two horses from High Springs which they received custody of from the former owners.

“They now belong to us, Jones said. “We call them Rocky and Bullwinkle because of the way they act.

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Photo by SUZETTE COOK/Alachua County Today

Santa Fe Raiders took the win against Eastside Rams on Sept. 11, 2015 with a score of 61 to 31.

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The Hawthorne Hornets dominated Interlachen on Sept. 4 for a 27 to 6 win.

See this week's print edition for action and sideline highlights.

Photos by SUZETTE COOK/Alachua County Today


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Photo by SUZETTE COOK/Alachua County Today

Two semis were involved in an accident on US Hwy 441 in Alachua on Sept.9. Traffic was narrowed down to one lane heading east towards Gainesville during the morning commute.

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SUZETTE COOK/Alachua County Today

Newberry Fire Rescue and Alachua County Sheriff's deputies responded to a two-car crash at the intersection of SR 26 and Main Street (SR 45) in Newberry on Aug. 22. According to Alachua County Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer, Art Forgey, the accident happened at 4:10 p.m. "Vehicle number one was traveling was eastbound," Forgey said. "Prior to the intersection, the driver made a u-turn from the lane intended for straight travel. This abrupt action occurred in front of vehicle number 2, which attempted to avoid collision. The driver from vehicle number 1 was taken by Alachua County ambulance to the hospital. Two children in the car were not injured. The driver of vehicle number two who tried to swerve out of the way, was unharmed. But the vehicle suffered major damage. SR 26 was closed for about an hour while emergency personnel from Newberry Fire Rescue prepared the driver for transport and waited for an Alachua County ambulance to arrive.

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Newberry takes another win scoring 34 to Eastside's 14 on Sept. 4.

Photo by SUZETTE COOK/Alachua County Today

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Photo by SUZETTE COOK/Alachua County Today
The Santa Fe High School Raiders football team got their first workout in on Aug. 25 since the completion of a state of the art 12 station workout room made possible by patrons. Nose guard Steven Williams, above, takes his turn.




ALACHUA – It is 8 a.m. and Building 25 at Santa Fe High School is about to fill up with the Raider Varsity Football Team.

Head Coach Bill Wiles has his list ready. Jog, Raider jacks, plank, side bridge, leg throw, bench bar, squat bar, shrug, iso neck with partner. 

This is the first full workout for the Raider team in the school’s new weight room that is about four times bigger than it was a few months ago. Walls are down and with the help of fundraising leader Faye Zuidema, local businesses and patrons stepped up to support the request for a better way for all Raiders to build strength.

“We had a vision,” said SFHS Athletic Director Michele Faulk. “It was going to cost about $52,000, and Faye Zuidema got a lot of community business leaders involved. In less than two months, we raised $62,000.”

On Aug. 21, patrons were invited to Building 25 to see what their donations turned into.

“You can do so many different things with this,” Faulk said and pointed to one of 12 universal workout stations that cost about $5,000 each.

Coach Wiles came in for a quick visit before kickoff and shook hands with platinum sponsors Greg Waitcus of Santa Fe Ford and Alan Hitchcock. He made his way around the room and greeted and thanked all of the patrons involved.

Faulk addressed the attendees, “We wanted you to see, this is what your money went for and our kids can’t stay out of here. This community amazes me beyond words. You are so giving in less than two months we raised this money.”

On the donor wall, plaques list the sponsors: Santa Fe Ford, The Hitchcock Family, Darrell Timberlake, Coach Warren Buck, O'steen Brothers, Inc., The Crane Foundation, High Springs Electric, Inc., Zac Zedlais, Bev's Burger Cafe', Rothseiden Family, Jack and Faye Zuidema, Cedar Lane Farms, Inc., Rembert Family Foundation, Inc., Hitchcock's Foodway, Santa Fe High School Advisory Council, Captial City Bank, Raoul Wallenberg, Reverend Hillery & Donna Bassriel, The Thomas Family:Clay, Kevin and Jackson, Renasant Bank, Custom Lighting, Inc., Bottita Family, Gussie M. W. Lee and Family, Main Street Pie Co., Mason J. Hancock, Alachua Farm & Lumber and Joel DeCoursey, Jr.

Former Raider athletes and coaches names are on the wall. Former SFHS Coach Warren Buck is standing next to one of his players who also donated to the project. Darrell Timberlake, class of 1989, broke the record in points in a game, Coach Buck says. Buck graduated from SFHS in 1964 came back to coach in 1974. “I coached for 30 years,” Buck said. “We’ve never had anything this nice before. I know they’ll utilize it use it real well.”

He pointed to Timberlake said, “He still holds the record 54 points in one game against Interlachen.”

Timberlake was a forward for the Raider basketball team, and he also helped support the expansion with a substantial donation.

“It’s fantastic,” Timberlake said about the facility. “We’ve been very blessed and very honored to help the school out.”

Principal Dr. Beth LeClear joked that the place “looks like a college locker room,” and added, “Our community knew that we needed something for our children, and look at what we got. It’s amazing. No other place than Santa Fe.”

Assistant Track Coach and Algebra Teacher Basil Wetherington said he is excited to get his athletes on the equipment.

 “These are half-rack multipurpose, so we can do all of the Olympic exercises, the traditional static, all the compound exercises, suspension training,” Wetherington said.

“You’re talking about complete 100 percent total body exercise, all confined in a small space that you can get 3 or 4 athletes at each rack. With 12 racks, that’s 48 to 50 athletes working out at once, plus excess space to do our other exercise.

Platinum sponsor Alan Hitchcock said he has always been a fan of the Raiders’ sports teams.

“It’s very exciting,” he said. “Because it’s really a state of the art, brand new, first class facility that I hope the kids will really be excited about building their bodies and making themselves into bigger stronger athletes.”

Hitchcock said he was a basketball player and that he continues to follow SFHS sports.

“I’m a big supporter of Coach Wiles,” he added. “And I hope this really helps him take us to the next level.”

Wiles knew exactly what to do with the new equipment as he took over the workout room on Aug. 25.

“Front plank hold for 30,” he shouted out directions. “On your front, 30, on your right, 30, on your left, 30. Make sure your body is straight.”

Then he introduced his athletes to the equipment. “Take those off, lay them on the floor,” he said about weights on the rack. “Put them on about two or three, there you go,” he instructed.

Clink clank clink clank, metal on metal sounds took over the room.

The players dug into the workout.

“It a good atmosphere, said Isaiah Cromarty, 16. “It makes me want to work out.”

Junior Tryston Dejesus agreed. “It’s really nice, way better than we used to have.

Senior Defensive Nose Guard Steven Williams said his exercise of choice is the bench press. “It looks good,” he said about the new facility and added what he plans to get out of it.

“A lot of strength, a lot of team building.”

At the end of the workout, the team gathered in the center of the room and built up to the same team cheer they execute before taking the field. “Raiders, Raiders, Raiders,” they yelled in unison.

They showed up for that first workout filtering in one by one, stopping at the sponsor wall and reading the names of the people and businesses that made the workout space a reality.

They left Building 25 in a group, as a team and headed to class with more energy than they arrived with.

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