Despite five arrests and a lull in horse killings since July in Miami-Dade, another horse was found slaughtered last night, its body left on the side of the road.
The horse was hauled to the dumping site, a dirt road near 168ths St. and 182nd Ave., in a truck, its carcass carried on an old door. It was covered with branches, perhaps to make it look like a load of landscaping debris.
Not only was the meat removed but so was the head, legs and hide. Portions of the hide were found dragged toward a large bonfire in the night in a field where men - possibly farm workers - were reportedly heard laughing and joking.
It had every bit of meat removed strongly suggesting the horse, like so many others, was butchered for its meat for the burgeoning black market in horse meat for human consumption.
The total number of butchered horses now sits at 24 found in 2009 in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. Their slaughter for human consumption is a disturbing and illegal phenomenon that authorities say exists only in South Florida.
It was unclear whether the latest horse was stolen; all identifying marks were removed and there were no early reports of horse theft in the immediate area. While some horses are slaughtered by their owners, it is illegal to buy or sell horsemeat.
Couto said it doesn't matter whether it was stolen and slaughtered or slaughtered by the owner.
"It's still illegal," he said. "And the horses are killed with incredible brutality - many are butchered while still alive." Couto said it's possible the horse meat is either eaten by a circle of friends or sold to Cuban cafes.
The problem of stolen and slaughered horses pales in comparison, Couto said, to the number of horses killed in illegal slaughterhouses throughout rural Miami-Dade County.