A bodybuilder pleaded guilty Friday to animal abuse for starving and mistreating horses found on his South Miami-Dade ranch.
Alex Paez, 48, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of animal abuse, and must serve one year of probation. He also pleaded guilty to four other counts, which will not appear as convictions on his criminal history.
He must also complete 100 hours of community service and donate $500 to the South Florida Society for the Protection and Care of Animals.
More importantly for prosecutors and animal-rights advocates, Paez will not be allowed to own or care for any horses for at least one year. His wife, a fellow bodybuilder named Migdalia Cowan, 50, plans to fight her misdemeanor charges at trial.
Paez’s and Cowan’s case drew plenty of attention in the animal-rights community. The horses had once been healthy. Photos posted online show the muscle-bound pair — Cowan in a bikini, Paez shirtless and holding a giant sword a la Conan the Barbarian — posing with a gray mare at the beach in 2014.
The two — who travel across the country to compete in body-building competitions — were arrested on similar horse-abuse charges four years ago. The charges were dropped after they completed a “pretrial intervention” program for first-time offenders.
Paez’s lawyer, Alexander Michaels, said his client took the plea to escape the “haters and crazy people” threatening him because of the case. Though the horses were at his ranch, the animals no longer belonged to Paez, he said.
“He loves horses,” Michaels said. “He just allowed other people to keep them there.”
Added Michaels: “Shakespeare wrote: ‘A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!’ My client did just that — he gave up his kingdom for a horse.”