After spearheading a massive raid on three alleged illegal slaughterhouses in Florida, the animal activist organization responsible for the crackdown is offering a $30,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of people trafficking horsemeat in Miami and Palm Beach counties.
The Animal Recovery Mission (ARM), following a police raid last week on properties suspected of slaughtering horses and engaging in trade of horsemeat for human consumption, an activity which is illegal in the US and is a felony crime in Florida, offered the reward to induce anyone with first-hand knowledge of these activities to step forward, says Richard “Kudo” Couto, founder of the animal rescue organization.
Despite the success of the raid last Tuesday, which led to the arrest of six men and the confiscation of 750 slaughter-bound animals, the push is on to sway people with first-hand knowledge of the underground horsemeat trade to step forward, says Couto, who conducted a six-month investigation that led to the raid.
“The investigation led us to discover there is a tie between the Miami black market (for horse meat) and the Palm Beach black market,” Couto says. “I decided to offer a reward to get even more information, because we’ve found in the past that reward money does wonders for an investigation.”
Specifically, the Animal Recovery Mission will offer $15,000 to an individual or individuals who can provide information leading to the arrest and conviction of a person or persons in Miami, and another $15,000 for the same information for Palm Beach County, he says.
So far, the reward has generated 20 tips, says Couto, who notes that anyone wishing to offer a tip may do so anonymously on the Animal Recovery Mission’s website: www.animalrecoverymission.org. Couto adds that his organization will protect the confidentiality of the informants.
The horsemeat trade in Florida drew national attention over the summer when a prize-winning Quarter Horse was stolen and cruelly butchered in a backfield in Hialeah, Fla. The privately owned mare was stolen from her stall, stabbed in the heart, and cut up for meat, Couto says, adding that a shocking photograph of the beautiful horse’s head is being circulated along with the Animal Recovery Mission’s quest for informants because the mare’s death is symbolic of what is happening in the underground horsemeat market. “That was a champion horse who was owned by our friends,” he says. “And she died because butchers were just looking for some quick meat.”
With that savagery to spur him on, and in the wake of the Oct. 13th raid, Couto hopes to turn up the heat on the underground horse-slaughter activity taking place in Florida. Please see last week’s story about the raid here: http://offtrackthoroughbreds.com/2015/10/16/cuoto-illegal-butchers-killed-show-horses-too/
Meanwhile, in the wake of the raid, which was the largest tactical effort to rescue animals Couto has ever witnessed, and which included members of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, about 150 police officers, SWAT teams, special weapons units and federal agencies, Couto and his team have been trying to help 300 of the 750 rescued animals.
On a newly purchased sanctuary property in Florida, Couto, his team, and veterinarians have been tending to very sick goats and other animals, while an outpouring of community support has come their way.
Since the bust, a tractor trailer piled high with feed and 200 bales of hay was donated last week, and Palm Beach county citizens have been approaching Couto and his team in their easily identifiable black T shirts with the ARM insignia, to say thank you.
“This has educated so many people,” he says. “We’re literally getting stopped everywhere in Palm Beach right now, people are thanking us for educating them about an issue they didn’t know about. And the tips are rolling in, and I think more and more people are keeping their ears and eyes open now. They now understand that if something doesn’t seem right, they can contact us and we’ll get something done.”
Anyone with information that can aid the Animal Recovery Mission is welcome to provide a tip via their website: http://www.animalrecoverymission.org.