Florida Poachers Target Horses

On Feb. 27 Ivonne Rodriguez's Paint horse, Geronimo, went missing from his Miami, Fla., pasture. Rodriguez immediately filed a police report and canvassed the neighborhood for information about her horse. Six days later, Miami-Dade County police discovered Geronimo's remains in a field across the street from Rodriguez's farm.

"He was tied to a palm tree and butchered for his meat," Rodriguez said.

Geronimo is one of at least eight horses whose butchered remains have been found in Florida's Miami-Dade County area since September 2007.

"The first case was a horse found slaughtered in his stall, but horses are mostly disappearing from their pastures and from barns located away from owners' houses," said Laurie Waggoner, executive director of the South Florida Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).

Waggoner said dismembered horse carcasses are currently turning up in Miami-Dade County at a rate of about one a week.

"I've personally seen about eight carcasses--but there could be more," Waggoner noted. "People don't report their horses stolen in this county."

According to Detective Edna Hernandez, the Miami-Dade Police Department's Agricultural Unit is trying to learn who is poaching the horses and why, but she could provide no further information.

Rodriguez has her own theory--she thinks the culprits are offering the meat for sale.

"Geronimo was a hefty guy," she said. "Nobody's going to kill a big horse like that to feed their family--where would you store that much meat?"

"If someone sees something unusual or somebody leading a horse away, call the police."
--Ivonne Rodriguez
It is not illegal in Florida for an owner to kill his own horse or consume its meat, but selling horsemeat or giving it away is against the law. Waggoner said SPCA investigators and police are following up leads that could link the thefts to an illegal horsemeat market.

"I pass information on, but there's not enough to go on," Waggoner said. "It doesn't seem many people are talking."

Waggoner hopes a $2,500 reward offered by the Humane Society of the United States for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Geronimo's poachers will bring informants forward. (More information on the reward.)

In the meantime, Rodriguez is encouraging horse owners and others in the Miami-Dade County area to remain vigilant.

"The police are working on it, but the community needs to get involved," she said. "If someone sees something unusual or somebody leading a horse away, call the police."

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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