Rewards Offered in Illegal Slaughter, Horsemeat Cases

Investigators hope the offer of a rich cash reward will help them identify those operating horse slaughter farms and selling horsemeat illegally in Florida.

Since 2009, more than 50 Florida horses have been butchered for their meat. In 2010, Florida lawmakers passed legislation making it illegal to for anyone to slaughter a horse to obtain its meat. In 2012, the town of Southwest Ranches enacted an ordinance that levies steep fines and other penalties on anyone who slaughters a horse for human consumption in that town.

Last week, the Animal Recovery Mission (ARM), along with personnel from the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office and other agencies, raided three illegal slaughter farms. Richard Cuoto, ARM founder, said the raids took place at Rancho Garcia in Loxahatchee and G.A. Paso Fino Farm and Medina Farm, both in West Palm Beach. A total of 750 animals—including horses, goats, cattle, pigs, dogs, cats, and birds—were rescued during the raids.

Cuoto said the operators of the illegal slaughter farms frequently obtained Thoroughbreds from nearby racetracks and purchased or stole Quarter Horses and other show horses of various breeds.

Now, ARM, is offering $30,000 in cash rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for illegally slaughtering horses and selling their meat for human consumption. The ARM website states that $15,000 is offered for information about illegal slaughter farms or meat sales in Miami/Dade County, while a another $15,000 is offered for information relative to the Palm Beach County cases.

“Any information and identity will remain highly confidential forever with ARM,” Cuoto said.

Cuoto noted that illegal horse slaughter and meat sales are happening in Florida on a weekly basis. Thus, keeping area horses safe from illegal slaughters can be difficult, said Tanja Koschnick, president of the Palm Beach County Horseman's Association.

“Everybody knows that it goes on around here, but it's almost impossible because people have no recourse once they have sold a horse,” Koschnick said. “We see people selling horses on Craigslist for $200,”

The best thing owners can do is be vigilant, and “stay away from offering a horse for free or for very little money,” Koschnick said.

Meanwhile, the investigations into the illegal slaughter farms and horsemeat sales continue.

Anyone with pertinent information should contact animalrecoverymission.org. All reports are confidential.

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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