By Kim Segal and John Zarrella, CNN
MIAMI, Florida (CNN) — Freedom’s Flight is a beautiful thoroughbred with an impressive pedigree. His bloodlines can be traced to two of the greatest race horses of all time, Seattle Slew and Secretariat.
But, unlike his kinship, Freedom’s Flight’s racing career ended before it had even started. It was almost two years ago when the thoroughbred’s leg snapped right out of the gate at Miami’s Gulfstream race track. The animal’s days as a cherished racehorse came to an abrupt end.
“He came from the famous Clairborne farm and ended up on one of the worst farms in America,” says new owner Richard “Kudo” Couto.
That “worst” farm in America turned out to be an illegal slaughter farm in Miami-Dade County, Florida.
Couto, working for the South Florida Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, participated in a raid on the farm and rescued Freedom’s Flight. The timing of that rescue may have saved Freedom’s Flight’s life. The horse was limping around on his broken leg, he had sores on his body, and you could see his bones protruding from his dirty coat.
Some 18 months since his rescue, Freedom’s Flight looks more like the stunning race horse that was worth thousands of dollars than the injured horse that was sold for $50 to an illegal slaughter farm.
“Prior to his rescue, I didn’t know that illegal slaughter farms existed in the country — let alone under my nose in my own county,” says Couto.
This new knowledge has motivated Couto. “It really made me buckle down and basically dedicate my life to shut this industry down. It’s become personal for me,” he says.
Couto suspects that there are more than 100 illegal slaughterhouses in the area. There is only one slaughterhouse that operates legally, Cabrera’s, and there the United States Department of Agriculture inspectors are housed on its property. Read full story >>