Horse Killings Prompt Raids in C-9 Basin

Just as bad as horses: lil' baby goats.

In the continuing fight against the illicit trade of black-market meat believed responsible for the recent rash of horse killings, a supergroup of authorities from Miami-Dade County code enforcement along with state health inspectors and federal food safety investigators went commando on an area of the county rife with illegal slaughterhouses.

A string of violations were issued Thursday in the C-9 Basin, an area bordered by Okeechobee Road and west of the Turnpike. Authorities did not find stores of illegal horse meat, but they did begin the shutting down of at least one unlicensed slaughterhouse and cited multiple property owners for violating business, code, health and environmental regulations.

In the Basin, which is agriculturally zoned and dotted with nurseries, wetlands, and small ranches, such operations have been going on for decades. County authorities shut down six illegal slaughterhouses between 2001 and 2005, but point to murky laws and shared jurisdiction to explain why problems continue.

While the US Department of Agriculture monitors licensed slaughterhouses, the responsibility to prosecute unlicensed outfits falls to multiple jurisdictions -- and therefore often falls to no one at all.

"It's very hard to make people comply through the zoning procedure,'' Charles Danger, Miami-Dade's director of building and neighborhood compliance told the Miami Herald.

Edna Hernandez, a police detective and spokesperson, pointed out that only the sale of horse meat is illegal and her department has "found the most effective way to combat this is with code compliance and animal services."

In that case, how about the agencies band together more often? Richard Couto, a former investigator with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in South Florida, showed regulators images he took at several of the raided properties. They included intestines stacked on butcher tables, a fly-covered baby goat carcase missing its head, and pools of blood and waste draining into the ground. 

At one property, investigators found an illegal restaurant, butcher tables, fly infestations in butchering and farm areas, garbage dumps, and freezers packed with meat. The freezers were locked by the USDA and the county issued an order to cut power.

In related news, we no longer want lunch.

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