Famous horse ‘Bo Duke’ at center of custody battle in Polk Co.

POLK CITY, Fla. (WFLA) – The famous horse Bo Duke is now at the center of a custody battle that played out Tuesday in a Polk County courtroom.

Donna Byrne, 53, is fighting to regain custody of her horse after being charged for riding while intoxicated.

On Nov. 2, a call from a concerned citizen led to the arrest of Byrne on a charge of DUI on a horse.

Donna Byrne and “Bo Duke,” the horse that was confiscated by authorities.

A Polk County Sheriff’s Office Agricultural Deputy testified that this incident was not his first rodeo with the duo. The deputy talked about at least two prior incidents he responded to when Byrne was drunk and Bo Duke had to be picked up, including one when Lakeland Police found Byrne in a ditch.

MORE: Woman arrested for DUI on horse speaks out

“She was lying on the ground. EMS workers had to pick her up off the ground. I contacted a friend of Ms. Byrne who I’ve dealt with in the past that assists her when she is not able to care for the horse at that time,” The Deputy testified.

Her attorney pointed out to the judge that Bo Duke is healthy, and Byrne’s sole way of getting around.

“There is nothing illegal about riding your horse along the road. She’s not engaging the horse in any way that exposing it to any more risk than if someone were walking their dog down a road,” Byrne’s Attorney Craig Whisenhunt told the Judge.

But the Sheriff’s Office says enough is enough, fighting to make sure Byrne never has a chance to ride Bo Duke again.

“She’s subjecting the animal to harm, an animal that cannot make a decision for itself,” Polk County Sheriff’s Office Attorney, Mario Cabrera told the Judge.

When WFLA asked Byrne for comment, she declined.

Two more hearings are scheduled, with a decision expected as early as Dec. 8.

Byrne’s prior criminal history includes five felony and 10 misdemeanor charges, consisting of cruelty to animals, drug possession, probation violation, and criminal traffic.

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