Sunday, April 15, 2012
Carmel on the Case: Slaughter Farms Follow-up
The recent cases of animal abuse in South Florida have been staggering in both the suffering of the animals involved and the cruelty of the humans. But tonight, there is some good news. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero has the update to this 7 News investigation.
WSVN -- Simply put- there are far fewer illegal slaughter farms operating in Hialeah today than there were just a few short months ago.
Three people were arrested after what authorities call cruelty was caught on camera as animals were killed. Their trials are pending.
That was in November.
Today, there's virtually nothing left of that farm and several others that once operated along an unpaved stretch of Northwest 97th Avenue.
Carmel Cafiero: "Were any of these farms legal along this road?"
Richard Couto, Animal Recovery Mission: "Nothing is legal. Not a building, not a structure or a fence is legal on these farms."
Richard Couto and members of his organization, the Animal Recovery Mission, went undercover to document the activity on the farms.
He tired for years to get enforcement action but says nothing happened until the Miami-Dade State Attorney's office got involved. It is prosecuting the cruelty cases and notified property owners what was going on on their land.
As a result, seven farms have been shut down and two more are in the process of closing.
Ed Griffith, Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office: "All of these land owners are telling us that these farms were illegally using their land. They were squatters and therefore have no legal rights either to the buildings or the properties."
While operating, investigators say all kinds of animals were slaughtered and sold for human consumption and for religious sacrifices.
Richard Couto: "They sell a lot of puppies for animal sacrifice."
And 7 News found the skulls of a cat and dog and other animals near the slaughter farms. There was also a human skull and bones.
The Miami-Dade Police Department is investigating to determine the source of the bones and of powdered mercury found on them.
Carmel Cafiero: "Nearby, the skeletal remains of a horse. It's not clear if he was sacrificed for religious purposes or slaughtered for meat, but his head and legs are missing."
Farm owners have moved animals out of the area and there is concern about where they are being taken. But the state says disrupting the operations makes getting them started again difficult.
Ed Griffith: "Disruption is another way of ending the practice. If you don't know where to go and you're looking for these kinds of activities, then you're not going to go anywhere."
If they do start again, Couto says, the Animal Recovery Mission will be watching.
Richard Couto: "It's going to be an on going battle but at one point or another, at one time or another, this will end in our county."