Sunday, May 17, 2009

Miami-Dade Horse-theft and slaughter crosses county lines

Miramar horses' slaughter: Animal cruelty among potential charges, police say

Owner found carcasses of horses apparently slaughtered for their meat
By Rafael A. Olmeda, Ihosvani Rodriguez and Juan Ortega |
1:04 PM EDT, May 14, 2009

MIRAMAR - Police announced today that whoever recently slaughtered two horses for their meat in Miramar could face a litany of charges, including animal cruelty.

The horses' carcasses were "a really gruesome sight," Miramar police spokeswoman Tania Rues said.

She said other possible charges are: burglary, because a gate was broken to enter the horses' ranch; grand theft, because the horses had an unspecified value; and criminal mischief and vandalism.

The horses were recently found slain at a Miramar ranch, an incident that has the South Florida Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals worried that a disturbing trend has crossed the county line.

Humberto Ramos, a mechanic and owner of the ranch in the 4600 block of Flamingo Road, called police May 6 to report the deaths of the animals. He found them near a gate, lying in pools of blood with their legs severed, less than 50 yards from the road. Their haunches, rumps and parts of their abdomens were missing.

"My Lord," Ramos said. "Who would do something like this?"

As of today, no arrests have been made. No leads have been phoned to the Miramar Police Department, and police are checking whether tips have been phoned to Broward County Crime Stoppers.

The elder horse was named Oro. The other horse didn't have a name, Ramos said.

The horses were on a 30-acre ranch that has about two dozen cows and just as many goats.

Ramos, who has owned the farm for 14 years, said he has had it mostly as a hobby.

Ramos said he discovered his dead horses when he went over to feed them. He said he put what was left of the carcasses on a truck to move them away from near the roadway.

Ramos hopes rewards offered by various animal rights groups will help authorities track down whoever killed the 3-year-old and 7-year-old Paso Fino horses.

The Humane Society of the United States is offering a reward of up to $2,500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for killing the animals. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is also offering a reward.

"I can't sleep now," Ramos, 48, said Wednesday. "My blood pressure has been high for a week."

SPCA investigator and board member Richard Couto said the killing and butchering of horses has been a growing problem in Miami-Dade County for at least a year, but the Miramar incident was the first he had heard of in Broward County.

Miramar police are talking with Miami-Dade County authorities about their cases, but there has been no confirmation whether the Miramar case is linked to others, Rues said.

"For the most part, they've been targeting properties where no one lives on site," said Couto. While he didn't have an exact number of incidents, he said the culprits have struck mostly at night and on uninhabited properties. "It's extremely tough to catch them in the act," he said.

In the United States, the consumption of horse meat is not illegal, but the U.S. government stopped inspecting horse carcasses in 2006, and the last three businesses that butchered horses for human consumption shut down in 2007.

It's still legal, Couto said, to kill a horse you own so you can eat it yourself.

Not every country shares an aversion to horse meat. It's not uncommon to find horse on a restaurant menu in some Asian and South American countries, as well as in France, Belgium and Canada.

But Couto said he doesn't think the criminals in South Florida have been shipping the meat abroad.

"It wouldn't make sense to export the meat to places where it's legal because it's cheaper there," he said.

Pembroke Pines rancher Debbie Beye-Barwick said she's worried Broward horses are now being threatened by the same criminals who have been preying on animals to the south.

"When it was in Miami-Dade, we felt like it was happening somewhere else," she said. "We rescue horses in the United States. We don't eat them."

Detectives are reaching out to Miami law enforcement agencies investigating similar crimes. If captured, the poachers could face charges of animal cruelty, burglary, criminal mischief and grand theft.

Police ask anyone with information to call Broward County Crime Stoppers at 954-493-TIPS (8477).,0,3986132.story

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