Authorities are investigating the slaughter of a horse in Homestead after pieces of its body were found early Sunday.
Undercover investigators from the nonprofit private group Animal Recovery Mission found the horse’s body off a dirt road near Southwest 187th Avenue and 180th Street. The organization targets animal abuse and illegal slaughterhouses and considers the Homestead area to be a “hot spot” for horse slaughter, founder and head investigator Richard Couto said.
“It’s a real problem in Miami-Dade County,” he said.
Couto, who arrived at the scene shortly after his investigators did, estimated that about 90 percent of the horse — including skin — had been removed. The head, leg bones and some organs were scattered about the grass, the only sign of a slaughter that most likely happened nearby on a private property, he said.
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The horse, likely 8 years old based on its teeth, had been stabbed by its butchers, Couto said, and then dumped in the grass off of the dirt road some time Friday.
“This animal was certainly tortured and butchered alive,” he said. “It’s a real grueling death.”
While some slaughterhouses are USDA approved, licenses require humane stunning and a series of health and handling standards. The butchers, Couto said, were likely professionals and took a great deal of time to remove the meat.
The meat, which sells for $4.50 to $40 a pound on the black market, is often consumed for medicinal purposes, Couto said. He said about 30,000 horses a year are slaughtered in Florida, often stolen pets or purchased illegally.
“They’ll do anything to eat horse meat,” he said. “They’re not eating it for the taste; they’re eating it for the medicinal purposes.”
Miami-Dade police’s agricultural unit will investigate, an officer said Sunday, although it’s a difficult crime to prosecute. If caught, the butchers face a minimum 1 to 5 years in prison and a fine of $3,500.