Cuoto: Illegal butchers killed show horses too

Richard "Kudo" Couto, founder of Animal Rescue Network, helped close down slaughterhouses in Palm Springs where show horses were reportedly among the casualties.

Richard “Kudo” Couto, founder of Animal Rescue Network, helped close down slaughterhouses in Palm Beach County where show horses were reportedly among the casualties.

Under the cloak of deep secrecy, approximately 15 horses per week were savagely butchered in illegal slaughterhouses operating a short distance from the hallowed Wellington, Fla. horse show grounds, according to Richard “Kudo” Couto, an animal rights activist who triggered a raid on three slaughterhouses this week.

Couto, the founder of the Animal Recovery Mission, says that one of the many grisly details uncovered in a six-month investigation, which on Tuesday, led to the “largest law enforcement tactical strike” of alleged perpetrators of extreme animal cruelty, is evidence that show horses were being slaughtered among the cows, chickens, goats, pigs and other horses, including Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses.

“We discovered during a deep investigation that illegal slaughterhouses were getting their horses from the town of Wellington, and that those slaughtered included ex-show horses,” Couto says. “This is the first time we now know that, just like in the Thoroughbred industry, that show horses are also going to slaughter. The show horse community has often said that because their horses are worth so much money that they’re not going to slaughter.

Rancho Garcia was one of three alleged illegal slaughterhouses in Florida raided by law enforcement this week.

Rancho Garcia was one of three alleged illegal slaughterhouses in Florida raided by law enforcement this week.

But our investigation shows that they do, and if show horses had tattoos and IDs like racehorses, I believe we’d see many show horses are winding up slaughtered.”

Couto made his conclusion following an undercover, six-month investigation that led to the arrest of six men Tuesday by a slew of law enforcement, including nine SWAT teams, special weapons units, a bomb squad, some 150 uniformed police officers, as well as representatives of the USDA and the EPA and multiple departments of the Florida Department of Agriculture, according to Couto and numerous news media reports.

The tactical strike was organized by the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Department and the Palm Beach State Attorney’s Office, who worked with lightning speed to raid three slaughterhouses after they were presented with six month’s worth of video and interviews recorded by Couto and the Animal Recovery Network.

Cuoto helps with one of 750 animals rescued from the scene.

Kuoto helps with one of 750 animals rescued from the scene.

A raid was made on G.A. Paso Fino and also on Rancho Garcia in the Palm Beach area and on the Medina Farm in Loxahatchee, Fla., according to Couto and numerous media reports. Arrested in the sting were Edeger Bica, 83; Jorge Luis Garcia, 48; Rafael Ramirez, 50; Jose Reyes, 38; Rathiban Monieram, 58, and Edgar Bica, 49, according to the Palm Beach Post. Bica, Garcia and Ramierz made their bail and were released.

The men were all charged with animal cruelty resulting in death, and with the illegal killing of horses and sale of horsemeat, which is a third-degree felony in the state of Florida, Couto says. He adds that he expects further charges to be brought following law enforcement review of extensive undercover video taken by the Animal Recovery Mission, and which, he says, depicts extreme cruelty and slaughter.

“The way these animals, including horses, are slaughtered rarely involves an attempt to stun them unconscious first,” Couto says. “They will go up to an animal like a horse or a cow and plunge a foot-long blade through the chest; I saw one cow take 20 minutes to die. Some 750 animals were rescued from the three slaughterhouses, 300 of which were seized by Couto and destined to be placed at a newly established Animal Recovery Mission Sanctuary, he says.

Animals were kept in deplorable conditions, deprived of food and clean water, according to Kuoto.

Animals were kept in deplorable conditions, deprived of food and clean water, according to Couto.

Couto and the Animal Recovery Mission, acting on a tip received six months ago, began investigating the three slaughterhouses through a series of techniques that involved the use of long-distance surveillance, flying drones overhead, nighttime surveillance, and ultimately infiltrating the slaughterhouses, masquerading as prospective buyers of horsemeat, he says.

The Animal Recovery Mission has investigated illegal slaughterhouses in the Miami-Dade region of Florida for about eight years. This week’s raid was the first of its kind to take place in Palm Beach, he says.

“Two of the farms are in Palm Beach County, one is just a short walk to the Wellington Show Grounds, the horse show capital in the winter, and the other is about three miles down the road,” Couto says, noting that horses were procured via Craigslist and at auctions in the area. “They were getting Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses from race tracks, and show horses from the show horse community.”

42 responses to “Cuoto: Illegal butchers killed show horses too”

  1. Sunnye Spain

    Always makes me sick and my heart heavy…why people like that are on this good earth I’ll never understand…please keep posting this on Facebook to spread the information…people do want to help…

  2. Charlie

    First of all, let’s not forget that the horse show community is known to donate ex show horses to ” wild cat sanctuaries” for a tax deduction, and sell them off in auctions so they are no longer competitive in the ring against younger up coming horses trained by the “old” horses trainer. I think it is short sighted to think the horse owners themselves are not culpable for some of the horses ending up at this abattoir. Until the entire horse community takes responsibility for the horses these stories will continue.

  3. Madeline

    Regardless…whether “Mexican” is a race and/or nationality, most of the grooms on the Wellington Show Grounds are Mexican. They are already tapped into the horse industry, and probably are well aware of the slaughter house that these show horses (and other horses) can be transferred to. Shame on them, and even more shameful are the people (who own these horses) showing on the show grounds. These people should also be arrested and fined for sending their beloved horses to this awful place!!

  4. Frances Mullane

    The penalties for all crimes regarding animals need to be raised… At least 25 years in prison. This is insane to let them out in 5 years.. they will be back in business in 6. What about the middlemen who brokered getting the horses from Wellington Barns to their killing fields? These 8 guys are just the start.. need to go after some of these big barns and trainers who got rid of horses who could not make the grade. It happens to race horses all the time…usually for insurance they have accidents but this is a more gruesome twist.

  5. Dalila

    I wonder how they would feel to be cooked alive, to be dragged by a leg, to choke on there own blood, to live in dirt with no clean water or food??
    People like these will NEVER learn!! This is all they know. This is who they are. They have no heart, no emotions, they will never learn. One of these men had already done this in Dade county. What’s next?? Monroe, Jacksonville, a new state ???
    An eye for an eye
    Let us be the voice of those who can not speak but can love unconditionally!!!

  6. Jayne Foreman

    Yes, a third-degree felony is a max five years and judges don’t usually give them the max. If first offense, they can end up with a probationary sentence. Need to get petitions started to put pressure on the judge that the public is watching. Then, depending on their immigrations status, possible deportation after their sentence, and the IRS will increase their pain and stick them where it hurts. We also need to use this publicity to put pressure on the race horse industry, shut it down, no more horse racing or greyhound racing, and the show horse industry has a lot to answer for. The show horse industry requires an investigation in itself. But with our pressure we are getting animals out of circuses, shutting down race tracks. We need to continue this with petitions, media attention, et cet. and start putting more pressure on the race horse industry. There is no more greyhound racing in Jacksonville due to public pressure. They are now poker joints. If people like to gamble, give them different opportunities and take the animals out of it, more poker joints and casinos.

  7. Karen

    I’m sorry but we all know that as said W.P.B. officals knew so they closed a deaf ear & let it continue till it was brought forth in video’s then could no longer keep eyes shut. What’s wrong with this picture >>>we can all say why it is that the ones that are to protect our Animals fail to do so, so the ilegales get away with murder & if they get time & come out they will move & start over, that needs to not happen. The judge hearing this case needs to realize wake & up as slaughter is killing of an innocent Animal in which Animal Crulity is not to be taken lightly because everyone is watching this high profiled case now due to where it has taken place in & AROUND WELLINGTON SO IT HAS HIT A LOT OF ANIMAL PEOPLE HARD All this is IS GREED, Think of the $ being made on the meat sold & where was this tainted meat sent to …We all know Racehorses are throw aways so it was easy to get there hands on them cause when owners are done & no longer make them $ they are gone sent anywhere & no one cares …I’m ALL FOR STOPPING INHUMANE ANIMAL & HORSE SLAUGHTER IN THE COUNTRY.

  8. Nicole Washburn

    The pressure is on us, the horrified community, to keep the media attention on this case and ensure that justice is done. The offenders are already out on bail ($3000!) and might just get off with a slap on the wrist. Let’s make this a landmark case that brings about stronger protection for animals–this kind of abuse is the tip of the iceberg unfortunately. It is time to shed a light and make lasting change for animals.

    1. D Hill

      5 years they probably won’t even serve for 20 years of illegal cruelty, torture and death to countless animals? We need to make this a 1st degree felony and throw the book at these ‘things” I won’t even call people. The judges will probably slap them on the wrist as they cry” I didn’t mean it! I didn’t know any better!” The one glimmer of hope, is authorities seemed to move quickly on this once they had what they needed. Stiff penalties are needed or this issue will not go away.

  9. jacy marie

    where are these people from? I don’t see any respect for life at all , not even childrens , as they made them see the slaughter , there is no hope for that sort , do not let them out ever , they need to be destroyed if I had my way I would lock them in a pen with no food or water in baking heat n let them all die all together , no tax payers money and no remorse no nothing as they are worthless beings

  10. Clara B

    Please don’t just slap these monsters on the wrist and turn them loose. Lock them up for good. If they are illegal here ship them back to where they come from. The law enforcement had to know this was going on in there counties RIP to all the poor animals that lost there lives

  11. Chris j muller

    I live about 25 minutes away from there, the crimmigrant scmbags were stealing people’s pets fro THIER yards and barns!
    Put them in prison, no deportation or they will be back three months after release and as for Racism, Deborah, you have no idea about the culture of these lowlife scum, they would steal your dog and kill it to sell for meat to another group of scumbags, then help you look for it very solemnly while comforting you, face reality!

  12. Sue H.

    Forget jail, just shoot them all. They don’t care one bit about what they did. They are useless scumbags that should not be walking on this planet!

  13. Nancy

    I’m sure they are not reporting there income to the IRS!
    IRS doesn’t mess around, sometimes I think they are the only government agency that really can put the screws to you. No bond, no parole, no early release freeze your account and go to jail!

  14. Linda Lundstedt

    The people who are purchasing the horse meat Are just as much to blame and should also be prosecuted to the fullest. Put a stop to the demand and it will have a direct effect on the supply. Most of the people who are doing the actual killing lack any morals and ethics .They really don’t care about the small amount of jail time or probation they may end up receiving. When there was a lot of boat theft in my area the cops caught up with one group in particular who were totally unphased about the possibility of jail time. They were very flippant about it and had already done time for theft before. However many people who purchase this meat have jobs and a family. Send them off with a record and some jail time then maybe others will think twice.

  15. Alice Stagg

    Don’t believe that law enforcement was unaware of these, and numerous other, slaughter places. They have turned a blind eye on this for years. They only made “lightning fast strikes” after Mr. Cuoto presented them with irrefutable evidence, and they no doubt knew it would be made public if they failed to act at this time. Neighbors now say they heard animals screaming all the time, and some reported it to law enforcement, but were ignored. It is beyond disgusting that they failed so miserably to do their jobs until Mr. Cuoto did it for them. There are other illegal slaughter houses out there. They all need to be rooted out and the guilty parties severely punished. There should have been NO BAIL granted for any of them. They are pure filth and evil.

    1. D Hill

      I agree completely.

  16. Nicole Washburn

    We must keep the media on this story and insure that these men are sent to prison. To have so much law enforcement implemented and then set bail at a measly $3000 is terrible.

  17. Ron

    If they are illegal’s , most likely if we deported them they would find their way back and we wouldn’t even know it. or have a way to keep track of them.. I’m sure there is got to be others helping them a long… Someone is dumping these horses right to there door step.. Again, in a area that No one would believe was possible….

  18. Alex

    How are they getting their hands on these show horses??? (not that the other animals are less important by any means… Im just wondering how this has happened with the show community).

    1. D Hill

      Sorry to let you know this, but some people are in it for the “sport” and not the horses. The AQHA allegedly supports slaughter. Why? So they can continually breed and sell more horses. I have talked with horse owners that treat their tractors & motorcycles better than they do their horses. And that’s a fact. Not saying there aren’t some wonderful and responsible horse owners out there. But there are enough of the “other” kind to make this a crisis.

  19. Anne Meczywor

    Slaughter of fight or flight animals cannot be done humanely under the “best” of circumstances. The animals die in terror and a heightened sense of pain. On the other side of the equation is that the meat is dangerous for human consumption because of the standard use of certain medications, including Bute, a known human carcinogen which accumulates in equine muscle tissue. God work on the part of the investigators and arresting officers. Let these greedy, heartless criminals spend many years locked up.

  20. Janice Kelly Vinson

    They Need To Be Treated The Same Way As They Treated These Innocent Animals!!!!!

  21. Kim Cheslow

    Please don’t ever release these horrible individuals. Are they legal immigrants? How have they operated these businesses? Who is supplying them with these horses?

  22. Margie

    There needs to be tougher penalties for animal abuse, so severe that these people will think twice before doing it.

  23. Mary

    Now that they have been arrested don’t let them out. I see from the article that 2 of them made bail. Probably setting up another illegal operation right now. Lock them up and throw away the key.

  24. Alex Dawson

    Richard Couto has done a remarkable job in South Florida to uncover these operations, to save horses, and other farm animals as well as facilitate prosecutions. But he is just one man. We all need to give him our support. This is his mission!

  25. Tricia Dixon

    Am I the only one not surprised that all these names seem to be Mexican? Probably illegal. In general, they have no regard for life, other than their own. They need to be deported if illegal and fried otherwise.

    1. Deborah

      Racist and proud? You should be ashamed of yourself. What these men did was deplorable but your bringing their race and immigration status into it is almost as bad.

      1. Amanda Smith

        “Mexican” is not a race. It is a nationality.

  26. Carolyn McFann

    Thank you for all the hard work you do to protect horses and other animals from these scumbags!

  27. Martha.

    I am not shocked at all by this. Years ago there were legal slaughterhouses that the states kept eyes on. I went to an aggie school and they took us there to get horse legs for dissection. Some of these trips ended up with the school, or a student getting nice, sound, sane and talented horses from the pens.
    And, as I have said all along. We can’t keep berating the Thoroughbred industry alone for this cruelty. EVERY breed and discipline has bad people in it. Just as they have good. This is NOT just a Thoroughbred racing issue.

  28. R.A.C.E. Fund, Inc.

    Thank Goodness for Richard Cuoto. He is a hero for animals. Hope the monsters that did this horrific atrocity to animals are prosecuted to the fullest and locked up in deplorable conditions.

    1. Niles

      Yes, thank you Richard Cuoto. You are a hero to all of us.

  29. Cheri

    Shaking with rage.. No other words.

  30. Jenna

    “Illegal butchers?” How about checking if they’re illegal PERIOD. These subhumans should be deported – I do not care. This is against the law and laws of humanity. This is disgusting.

    1. Lauren


    2. Niles


    3. Nicole Washburn

      Yes. It is time that we called this activity for what it is: psychopathic. If you torture animals, you are a criminal.

  31. Stacey Sheley

    I’m so fed up with these sick people. One of Couto’s pictures had a little girl in with these disgusting sub-humans. She was at one of these places and looked to be about 6 years old. She was the only child there and there were no women present in that series of photos. If they are killing the animals in front of little children, what else are they doing to those kids?

    1. Tricia Dixon

      At the very least, they are teaching them that it’s okay to abuse and kill animals. Then when they start doing it on their own, to neighborhood pets, people are going to pretend, oh gosh, I wonder how that happens.

    2. Nicole Washburn

      If you go on Facebook and look at Sr. Garcia’s page, you will see his family (wife and all) posing for professional photos on a beach along with many posts of meat before a family BBQ by the pool. They know what is going on, but choose to live this way.

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