Jail sentence expected to buoy slaughter fight

Richard Couto, founder of the Animal Recovery Mission, helped convict a Florida man to a 1-year jail term for animal cruelty this week.

Richard Couto, founder of the Animal Recovery Mission, helped convict a Florida man to a 1-year jail term for animal cruelty this week. Couto spent six months gathering evidence to help bring the conviction.

An animal rights group seeking to shut down illegal horse slaughterhouses and other illegal butcheries received a shot in the arm this week when a Florida rancher, targeted in an undercover sting, was sentenced to a year in jail.

Following the sentencing of Jorge Luis Garcia, 48, of Ranchos Garcia Farm to a year behind bars without possibility of probation, animal-rights activist Richard “Kudo” Couto declared the sentence a “groundbreaking” decision, one that should help other prosecution efforts of illegal slaughterhouses.

“We’ve investigated 137 cases, but this is the first one involving the treatment of farm animals that has gone to trial,” says Couto, founder and president of the Animal Recovery Mission (ARM). Prior to Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Samantha Schosberg Feuer’s sentencing of Garcia to 364 days in a county jail on Tuesday, the Animal Recovery Mission had yet to have one of its cases result in this stiff a sentence, Couto says.

Couto, right, speaks with the media following the conviction of Jose Garcia to a 1-year prison term for animal cruelty.

Couto, right, speaks with the media following the conviction of Jose Garcia to a 1-year prison term for animal cruelty. Couto reports the small courtroom in Palm Beach County was packed.

“This is the first time in the history of the state that … a person has been sentenced to prison for torturing animals,” Couto says, noting that Garcia was charged with two misdemeanor counts of torturing goats to death.

The sentencing came months after Couto and other ARM investigators investigated the 4-acre farm in Loxahatchee, which borders the fabled Wellington show grounds.

In October, local and national law enforcement agents who acted on the evidence amassed by Couto and ARM investigators shut down Rancho Garcia Farm in a large-scale sting. Rancho Garcia, along with the G.A. Paso Fino and Medina farms, was shut down, and arrests were made. Please see an earlier article: http://offtrackthoroughbreds.com/2015/10/16/cuoto-illegal-butchers-killed-show-horses-too/.

Couto rescued his OTTB Freedom's Flight eight years ago while assisting the South Florida SPCA and Miami-Dade Police Dept. on a raid at an illegal butchery. Freedom's Flight was tethered to a tree, then next in line to die.

Couto rescued his OTTB Freedom’s Flight eight years ago while assisting the South Florida SPCA and Miami-Dade Police Dept. on a raid at an illegal butchery. Freedom’s Flight was tethered to a tree, then next in line to die.

Although Couto suspected horses were slaughtered on the farm, and law enforcement recovered horsemeat from farm freezers, no remains of horses were found. And this particular case centered on the treatment of livestock instead, he says.

Noting that he was both surprised and thrilled by the sentence, Couto says the decision establishes case law, which can be used going forward to prosecute other slaughterhouses. “We have several investigations going on right now, and when we conclude them, we’ll use this sentence to show prosecutors that cases against animals can result in jail time,” he says.

Couto is a retired real estate agent who devoted his life, beginning in 2008, to saving horses and investigating illegal slaughterhouses. While volunteering with the South Florida SPCA, Couto helped rescue off-track Thoroughbred Freedom’s Flight from the knife blade of a backyard butcher. The flashy chestnut was tethered tightly to a tree awaiting his death when he was rescued by the Miami-Dade Police. After that incident, Couto adopted the gelding and made it his mission to shut down slaughterhouses. Please see earlier story: http://offtrackthoroughbreds.com/2015/04/08/liberated-from-illegal-butcher-a-horse-inspires-2/.

After documenting the activities taking place for years in backyard butchers and illegal slaughterhouses, Couto says the sentence this week renews his faith that slaughterhouses will eventually be shut down in Florida.

“Cases involving farm animals are usually overlooked,” Couto told the SunSentinel newspaper. “This is an extremely important case that will help us with our investigations moving forward.”

22 responses to “Jail sentence expected to buoy slaughter fight”

  1. Patricia Fidone

    Slaughtering horses is a low paying and barbaric act, those who choose this act should + must be punished>>>>>>

  2. Marilyn Wilson

    Thank you!!

  3. Terri Russell

    Couto is a righteous kind of guy. ARM is a wonderful group. Did the law enforcement ever think that there were no remains on the properties because the horses were butchered elsewhere ..along side roads in owners pastures? They didn’t get the whole group of them and the slaughters continue. When you don’t eliminate all of the cancer it keeps coming back. Something to think about

  4. Susan Ifland

    A great big thank you to Richard and the Judge who sentenced this evil person. You are indeed “Animal Angels.” Let us hope and pray this is a start to more arrests and convictions of hard time for those evil ones who think they can torture and kill our beloved animals.

  5. Maureen Allen

    Richard Couto is as courageous as he is principled. Not sure how this case (or the tortured/murdered goats) were mere misdemeanors, not felonies. That said, this is a landmark decision in terms of case law–a precedent destined for repeated citation as the heroes we support online and with donations pursue soulless psychopaths

  6. Marion Mohrman

    Your work tracking down the people that are slaughtering equines is such a huge step forward to bringing the truth to the people that struggle to believe that a horse could be tied to a tree and inhumanly killed because he could not make money on the race track. Your OTTB Freedom’s Flight is beautiful! I pray that your effort will expand the consciousness of many. Much Love to you, I am so proud of who you are as a human being

  7. erin

    about time horse haters get put in jail and start shuting down horse slaughter houses get shut dwon not re open all we need to is fight and give a big hell no to horse slaughter ther is other options for horses in sted of killing them for no reason

  8. Susan Ifland

    Thank you Mr. Couto for what you do for our beloved horses. This is a start. Lets hope there are many more. Thank you to the Judge that sent him to prison. We need to get the safe act passed to ensure the safety of all slaughter bound horses. May God bless you for all you do.

  9. Sharon


  10. Letty Grayson

    Thank you for all you do! Let’s hope Congress does the right thing and passes The Safeguard American Food Exports Act S.1214/H.R.1942 to stop sending our horses over our borders to slaughter — both horrifically cruel and a human food safety issue.

  11. Kathryn Baker

    Hooray! Bless you Judge Feuer, bless you Richard Couto.

  12. Shirley Mccracken


  13. Mary Beth Weber

    God bless you, Richard Couto…..you are such a dedicated man…..

  14. erin

    thats great we need more people like him keep up the good work

  15. Ann Taylor

    While the brief jail sentence may be the most the judge could assign under FL law — I celebrate with all civilized humans who care & especially Richard Couto & ARM!! Florida seems a “fit” for backyard butchers & animal thieves. At the risk of not being PC…the names associated with these grim & sadistic butchers are predominantly Hispanic & Cuban. Personally I despise the animal torture “customs” of both ethnic cultures…particularly bull fighting, “rodeos” w/truck loads of horses en route to slaughter & Santeria religion w/their horrific animal sacrifices. They have an ethnic mentality, similar to the Chinese with their “dog killing “festival”, that is so gruesome it defies words. U.S. laws are, at long last, beginning to accept animal abuse as a pathway to human murder. “Eye for an eye” would be reasonable punishment, IMO, but we’ll accept new, legal awareness & fight on!

  16. Niles

    Thank you, Richard Couto.

  17. Terri RI

    Thank you Richard for standing up for these animals. Now they have a voice,

  18. Sue carter

    Thank You Couto for all you do. Maybe next up should be the quasi-legal slaughter pipeline to Mexico?

    1. Patricia Fidone

      Thank you Sue for reminding everyone that our American Horses Wild+Domestic are still being horribly abused in bull fights in mexico, as well as in other ways through our slaughter pipeline, and those that are making decisions or illegally letting our Wild Ones go to the slaughter pipeline are still breaking the law as they are Supposed 2B federally protected, so our lawmakers=lobbyists are certainly breaking the
      law, and this must be stopped.

  19. Mary McLeod

    Thank you Richard for doing our species proud!! Too often, I am ashamed of humans, but you look evil in the eye and do something about it. Thank you for your excellent work!! Blessings to you and your loved ones, Mary in Boone

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

    Bravo to Richard Couto for all you do…..

  21. Kathy

    It’s a step forward, but the sentence is merely a slap on the hand. It should have been longer. Hopefully, subsequent convictions will carry longer sentences.

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