Since January, 19 horses have been reported butchered–17 in Miami-Dade County and two in Broward County.
And that might be just a conservative estimate.
The reported deaths are being investigated by a multiagency team that includes Scott Andress from the Miami-Dade Police Department.
“In the majority of these cases, the carcasses exhibited signs of being slaughtered and dismembered, and the meat removed from the bodies,” Andress says.
Couto [Richard “Kudo” Couto of the South Florida Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals] says the killing of horses for their meat is South Florida’s “dirty little secret.” But it is a secret no longer, with the number of reported horse deaths on the rise.
“At this point in the investigation, we’re attempting to confirm the existence of a black market demand,” Andress says.
Law enforcement authorities say it may be premature to focus solely on a killing-horses-for-meat theory. But Couto believes that is exactly what is happening And, he says, it has been going on for years.
The SPCA’s Couto says he knows firsthand that there is a black market for horse meat. He even quotes prices–a pound of horse meat might sell for anywhere from $7 to $20, with one recent report of $40 for a pound in Broward County.
The interest in the meat stems from cultural demand, according to Couto. The Miami area is a melting pot, he says, made up of many nationalities.
“In their country of origin, horse meat is legal to buy and eat,” Couto explains.
He also says people may be interested in horse meat because of a false belief that it will cure medical ailments such as AIDS or ease the side effects of chemotherapy.