A group of horse owners and advocates held an "Anti-Slaughter Rally" outside a Miami-Dade courtroom Tuesday, where two men accused of butchering a pair of horses attended a pre-trial hearing.
Members of the South Florida SPCA Horse Rescue, Animal Recovery Mission and South Florida Trail Riders held the demonstration along with horse owner Ivonne Rodriguez as accused horse butchers Luis Cordero, 19, and Santiago Cabrera, 20, appeared in court.
Holding signs reading "Hang 'Em High" and "Punish Horse Butchers," dozens of protestors and even a couple horses gathered outside the courthouse as Cordero and Cabrera worked on a 5-year plea deal in their case. They're due back in court next month.
Cordero and Cabrera were arrested last September on animal cruelty and armed burglary charges after they allegedly killed two horses for their meat at two different Miami-Dade ranches.
Cabrera told Miami-Dade police that he was paid $500 for luring a horse named "King Quizi" out of its stall, then held the helpless horse as an accomplice slit its throat and removed meat from its body. Cordero admitted to killing at least one horse, police said. Cabrera and Cordero worked together on one of the killings, according to police.
Richard Couto, founder of Animal Recovery Mission, said horses are still be slaughtered and it has to stop.
"I came upon a slaughter farm a handful of days ago and I came upon north of 30 horse carcasses, skulls everywhere," Couto said. "It just goes to show the magnitude of the issue and the problem in South Florida there's not two people who have butchered horses, there are hundreds. A strong message needs to be sent by the judge and the jury for these two that have been arrested."
Rodriguez's horse Geronimo was stolen and butchered for its meat in February 2009. Geronimo was one of over 20 horses killed in a wave of horse slaughters last year. The Ivonne Rodriguez Horse Protection Act went into effect earlier this year, which makes it a felony to butcher one's horse, punishing those who buy or sell horse meat with at least a year in prison.
"The community is not going to stand for those slaughtering our horses," Rodriguez said. "We're here to seek justice and that they get the maximum that they can get for this. The people who haven't been arrested will be found and those thinking about it, don't even try it."
State Rep. Luis Garcia, of Miami, sponsored the bill.
"It is my hope that the new harsh punishments, contained in the Horse Protection Act, will eliminate this crime in our state," Garcia said in a statement. "If criminals want to steal and kill our horses, then the state will take their livelihoods and possibly their freedom."
Meanwhile, there's still a $15,000 reward for info leading to an arrest in the death of Geronimo. Rodriguez hopes someone comes forward soon.
"Have a little sense of decency and come forward and say who killed my horse," she said.