The Hillsborough County Commission voted Wednesday to pursue what the county can do about horse slaughter and the slaughter of other animals reportedly going on in the Citrus Park area.
After watching a portion of a FOX 13 News story on the undercover investigation by Animal Recovery Mission's Richard Couto, commissioners unanimously voted 7-0 on two motions filed by District 2 Commissioner Victor Crist.
Crist was in his final year as a state senator in 2010 when he helped pass a ban on horse meat sales for human consumption, in response to the ongoing theft and butchering of horses in the Miami area.
He told FOX 13 he was shocked to see video of what appears to be the same problem in his own county, in his own district.
Today, Crist filed a motion asking the Chairman of the Board of Commissioners to request that local legislators once again take up the 2010 ban and close any loopholes.
"Here it is two years later, and it has been brought to my attention that it has not been fixed, that those who would want to do this have found loopholes in and out and around the law, and that there are those who are still committing these heinous acts," Crist told commissioners.
Crist says the intent of the 2010 ban was to stop all slaughter of horses for human consumption, but a spokesman for the Hillsborough County Sheriffs Office says it doesn't cover slaughtering horses for personal consumption.
Couto disagrees with how HCSO is interpreting the law, but points out that no one has been arrested for the two horse meat buys he made with a USDA investigator.
"It's great that new ordinances and laws are put into place but without law enforcement to step to the plate and enforce those, what good are they?" Couto said. "We didn't buy that meat to feed our dog or to feed a lion. We weren't part of the horse killer's family. We went in and bought this meat for our own consumption, which is a felony in the state of Florida."
The HCSO has confirmed that one charge for the illegal sale of horse meat is pending review by the state attorney. Much of Couto's graphic undercover video also shows the slaughter of other animals, especially pigs, and raises the issue of humane vs. inhumane slaughter.
The USDA has confirmed to FOX 13 that it has an ongoing investigation, which Couto says stems from an undercover purchase of a pig he made last fall with a USDA investigator.
Crist says what he saw on Couto's video was inhumane, in his opinion. His second motion directs the county attorney to research what can be done at the local level.
"What I'm asking for here is that we take a look at what we can do under existing state and federal law and how do we tie it in to our ordinances so that we can be clear where and when and how you may and can not do this," Crist said.
Hillsborough County Board of Commission Chairman Ken Hagan told FOX 13 after the meeting that this was the first he has heard of such a problem in the county.
He said he was "shocked and horrified" by the video. Says Hagan, "this will be addressed."
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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