Commissioner targets 'loophole' in horse slaughter law - FOX 13 News

Commissioner targets 'loophole' in horse slaughter law

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

The video is gruesome and graphic -- evidence of what Richard Couto says is going on in the Citrus Park area of Hillsborough County.

"Hillsborough County has a serious, serious problem with illegal horse meat being sold in your county," he told FOX 13 earlier this month.

The man who calls himself 'Kudo' says as many as 15 to 20 horses a week are being slaughtered at one farm -- a number the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office says is greatly exaggerated.

"We been out on numerous occasions with him and never have been able to successfully buy horsemeat that he's made the assertion they're selling," insisted HCSO spokesman Larry McKinnon.

Kudo has taken to Facebook to make his case, posting videos of horse meat buys, including one made with an undercover USDA agent.

Hillsborough deputies say that's the only horse meat Kudo has turned over to them, and that case is pending with the state attorney.

McKinnon says, despite the 2010 law that bans the sale of horse meat for human consumption, it's not illegal to butcher a horse for personal consumption or to feed to animals.

"We have to follow the law and if that statue's not there that gives us the tool to make a prosecution or make an arrest, we can't do it," he explained.

The state senator who helped create that law is now a Hillsborough County commissioner: Victor Crist, whose district includes Citrus Park.

"If, for whatever reason, there are loopholes here that others may have been clever to navigate through, then I would work to find a way to close those," he said.

Crist says he's moving forward on that. Next week he'll ask the commission chairman to sign a letter "to the Hillsborough County legislative delegation requesting that illegal horse slaughter be addressed at the state level."

He also wants the board to direct the county attorney to "identify any ordinances that could be adopted or amended to address illegal horse slaughter."

As for Kudo, he says he's not giving up on his year-long investigation and believes his video will hold up if prosecutors go forward with the one case.

"They have a pending case from working with me -- from my investigation, not their investigation. That may be the issue here. Basically, they see me as an outsider, someone from Miami Dade, entering their community and doing their work, which no cop likes to see."

The head of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office Agricultural Unit, Sergeant Ed Rayburn, told FOX 13 Thursday that they've had quite a few phone calls since our story first aired, some of them with information they're following up on.

He also says they're taking a closer look at the farms Kudo videotaped and stand ready to help with any county code enforcement.

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