Police search for horse rustlers in Florida who slaughtered three animals

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Police search for horse rustlers in Florida who slaughtered three animals

Authorities in south Florida are searching for a gang of horse rustlers who stole and slaughtered three animals for meat, including one used in therapy sessions for children with autism and cognitive disabilities.

The horses were taken from a remote area of Redland, near Homestead, and their carcasses were discovered on Friday by officers from the Miami-Dade police department’s agricultural and environmental crimes section.

“They looked up and saw some vultures, and they said: ‘Let’s see where it leads us,’” detective Alvaro Zabaleta said at a news conference.

The incident is the latest in a number of similar thefts in the region, heightening fears that a new group of criminals is targeting horses for meat, which is then sold as an alternative to commercially available cuts of beef or pork, often at higher prices.

Zabeleta warned that buying horsemeat on the black market comes with health risks because of the medications administered to the animals to keep them healthy, such as high-dose Ivermectin for deworming.

“Just because it’s expensive doesn’t make it a delicacy,” he said.

Last month, CBS Miami reported, two horses were slaughtered in a neighboring area of south-west Miami and their bodies found in pieces.

In December, a Hialeah resident, Alain Arencibia-Diaz, was arrested in a sting operation in which he is alleged to have tried to sell 40lb of meat from a horse he had killed to an undercover office. He is scheduled to appear in court in March.

The latest episodes have dampened officials’ hopes that a spate of horse rustling that became prolific just before and during the Covid-19 pandemic was abating.

“My deepest sympathies go to the bereft owners as they try to find answers to an incredible loss and some certainty that this will not happen again,” the mayor of Miami-Dade county, Daniella Levine Cava, said in a statement reported by the Miami Herald.

“This issue affects us all, from the agricultural community that is suffering these attacks on their private property, to other members of the community that could be putting their health at risk. My administration is ready to work with all stakeholders and the community to put an end to this problem.”

The three horses most recently killed had been stabled together. They were a male aged between six and eight years named Bucefalo; a 20-year-old female named Miranda; and a 14- to 16-year-old female named Paloma.

Paloma’s caretaker, David Yepez, told the Herald that the horse had given therapy rides to children with mental health issues and cognitive disabilities – and she would be greatly missed.

“The therapeutic aspect of horses is something near and dear to me,” he said. “It’s sad. You build an attachment, and you see the impact this horse has, not just on one person.”

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