Camino was arrested and faces battery charges. Today, Ricardo estimates he suffered 20 broken bones in the beatdown, and he was left with a gaping wound on the side of his face. He now carries a handgun at all times, never again making the mistake of leaving it in his truck.

Though Ricardo has no problem with his name being published, his wife is worried that the horse-slaughtering goons will go after their family next. Ricardo is done cooperating with cops, she says: "He needed to make a choice — his family or his horses."

South Florida SPCA honchos were also spooked by news of the assault. On November 12, Jordan, president of the local chapter, sent an email to the agency's board announcing that due to "the ramifications of exposing illegal slaughter of farm animals in South Florida, I have decided that for the time being we will take a less public role in outing these despicable practices."

Luis Delgado on the raids on his outlaw land: "You would have thought they had found the Taliban."
Photo by C. Stiles
Luis Delgado on the raids on his outlaw land: "You would have thought they had found the Taliban."
Richard Cuoto
Photo by Ian Witlen
Richard Cuoto

The next day, Couto resigned from the SPCA, calling it "the hardest thing I've ever had to do." He founded his own one-man nonprofit, Animal Recovery Mission, or ARM. He adopted the nickname given to him by the Spanish-speaking butchers who couldn't pronounce his last name: "Kudo." Then he went back to work raiding farms and collecting evidence, only this time as a renegade.

In October, Couto had attempted to coordinate a meeting among several local government agencies and police forces to present his findings on the C-9 Basin. The invited brass had all ignored him or canceled. So Couto took his quest to state officials instead.

In December, he met with prosecutors at the State Attorney's Office in Miami. He showed them videotapes and photos of the slaughter tables and cockfighting setups he had found in his raids. He argued that with the C-9 Basin's zoning laws, everything in the area — from the bustling bars to the oil-drenched semitruck parking lots — violated the law.

Apparently, he struck a chord. On December 17, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle sent a letter to the heads of several agencies declaring that her office had "received certain information about unlicensed and illegal slaughter houses [being operated] in a barbaric... open and flagrant manner. This is in complete disregard for the health and safety of the public," the letter continued. Then she asked the officials to shut down the illegal slaughterhouses.

On the chilly, bright, early morning of January 12, 15 agencies began the area-wide raid that would spell the end of South Florida's most lawless outpost.

Delgado, Rodriguez, and Viña were among the C-9 rancheros cited for various infractions. "There were so many cops and inspectors out here," Delgado says, "you would have thought they had found the Taliban in here."

A month later, the cousins were tearing down their stables, loading up the wood pieces into horse and U-Haul trailers. Rodriguez used a hammer to pull apart the beams supporting his stables. Two days before, he had already transported his two horses and his grandson's pony to Clewiston, where he and Heriberto had found a new patch of land for their campo lifestyle.

Viña complains everything was fine in the C-9 basin until a certain bald avenger ruined it for them. "It's all that guy Kudo's fault," Heriberto grouses.

"He was on the news about how he was going to end all the slaughtering out here. He claims to be an inspector, but he isn't. He's nobody."

The scrawny ranchero says he wishes he could meet Couto so he could share with him a popular yet vulgar Cuban expression: "Me cago en su madre."


From the back seat of a reporter's Toyota Corolla, Couto surveys the wreckage like a conquering commander entering the city he vanquished. (He's ditched the Range Rover, which has become a bullet magnet in the C-9 these days.)

"This was a big-money operation," he muses, ducking his head below the window as the car passes the remains of a bar being dismantled by former operators. "So sorry, motherfuckers."

He's in full Kudo mode, wearing his cheap shoulder-length brown wig and a trucker's hat over his bald dome — "They all know to shoot at the first white bald guy they see" — and every so often speaking officiously into a camcorder in his right hand.

In the front passenger seat is his lumber-executive father, also named Richard, a New Hampshire resident who's been absconded by his son from his Florida vacation. "This is not what I had in mind," grumbles the stiffly seated, understated man, who's dressed like he's ready for a day of yachting.

Junior directs the car to the front gate of a former slaughterhouse and, within moments, is scuttling under a fence, ignoring "No Trespassing" signs.

"Kudo with ARM," he tells his camcorder as he saunters casually around the property, aiming the camcorder at a still-standing cockfighting ring. "This place has been here for north of 30 years. Ripping animals apart, forcing them to fight, forcing them to live in tiny, confined areas."

Suddenly, a burly man cleaning debris a few hundred feet away starts booming at Couto in curse-laden Spanish. Couto scrambles under the fence and back into the car, where his father sits, frozen.

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6 comments
Kozzie69
Kozzie69

Go in there with the fricken army and cull them out. This is a disgusting thing they do with animals. Let them go back to their native land and butcher pets....we JUST DON'T DO IT HERE!!!!!

Olaf
Olaf

They are in Clewiston!!!

Lorinda Bloch
Lorinda Bloch

Agreed, Mr. Cuoto is just what this country needs--what Florida needs. And I hope more brave souls come forth and do what he is doing and has done. Every animal lover--especially horse owners--should be praising his name to the Highest Power. I say, "Thank you, Richard Cuoto." And thanks to the authors of this article and to New Times for reporting it.KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!!!! May the dreadful people who commit these unlawful inhumane acts get a taste of the very fates they have inflicted on these poor animals. It's going to be a nasty ride in Hell for them. And Hell is a very very long sentence.

Debbie
Debbie

Mr. Couto is a hero. His father should be super proud of him!!!! How to get in touch with him to give our support? These illegal acts have finally been put to a stop. We don't want cock-fighting, illegal slaughters, illegal dumping! Great article, Mr. Alvarado and Mr. Garcia-Roberts. We need people in this country and world like the three of you -- willing to combat crap, and willing to write about it. PETA should give an award to Mr. Couto! As should Miami-Dade and the State of Florida! I had no idea about all the illegal activities going on at the C-9 basin until this article.

Christy
Christy

I will be eternally grateful to Kudo for what he has done. The illegal slaughter industry down here is abominable, disgusting and gives Miami a bad name. When they started pulling meat off horses while they were still alive...right in their stalls or tied to trees... GAME OVER. This will end. Come near my horse...you won't like what you find.

Kozzie69
Kozzie69

 People need to put baby monitors in their barns and be ready with a gun to blow anyone away who messes with their property, which livestock is considered.

 
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