MIAMI (CBSMiami) — The accused ringleader of an illegal slaughterhouse in Hialeah made his first appearance in Miami-Dade County bond court Monday.
A judge set the bail for Rudesindo “Rudy” Acosta at $500,001 during his court appearance.
The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office and the Hialeah Police Department arrested Rudesindo “Rudy” Acosta on Saturday and charged him with three counts of animal abuse and 40 counts of confining animals without food or water.
Two other suspects, Javier Estevanez and Luis Cardoza were also arrested over the weekend and are being held on several thousand dollars bond.
Police said they also arrested two boys, ages 13 and 14. The juveniles are Acosta’s god sons. The teenagers have been released into their parent’s custody.
According to officials, they became aware of several farms operating within the City of Hialeah that were illegally slaughtering animals, and were doing so “in a cruel and inhumane manner, which resulted in acute pain and suffering the animals in violation of the Florida Humane Slaughter Act.”
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said the slaughterhouse violated the state’s animal cruelty laws.
“The brutality of what so casually occurs at an illegal slaughterhouse shocks the senses,” said Fernandez Rundle. “Brutally beating an animal with a sledge hammer as it squeals out in pain and then stabbing it repeatedly for profit, violates every concept of Florida’s animal cruelty laws. No legitimate slaughterhouse operator or any self-respecting farmer would treat their livestock in such a ghastly manner.”
Undercover video was taken of some of the witnessed incidents, which included the repeated beating of the animals with sledgehammers and stabbing with knives, officials said. Investigators also allege that animals were butchered and boiled alive in some instances.
Additionally, the unsanitary conditions of the illegal slaughterhouse allowed blood and other animal fluids to consistently seep into the ground, potentially endangering the water quality of the City of Hialeah.
The illegal slaughterhouse existed on land zoned as raw agricultural land, which means that no physical structures of any kind, not even a fence, were legally permitted to exist, according to officials.
The Hialeah Mayor’s office told CBS4’s Natalia Zea that the Environmental Protection Agency and Miami-Dade’s Department of Environmental Resource Management are testing groundwater near the slaughterhouse site, to make sure Hialeah’s water is safe.
The investigation led officials to discover that the property on which the animals were being butchered is not owned by Rudy Acosta.
“Only during the course of the investigation was it learned that Mr. Acosta had actually usurped an isolated piece of City of Hialeah property for his own private and illegal use,” a press release from the department said.
Hialeah Police Chief Mark Overton added, “What concerns me is we’re dealing with a public safety issue; there’s no telling what health hazards families are exposed to when they consume meats sold by these unregulated slaughterhouses.”
Authorities rescued 600 animals, including horses, sheep, pigs, and ducks. Others had to be euthanized.
The hundreds of animals that survived are now living at animal sanctuaries around Florida.
Investigators told Zea that more slaughterhouse raids could be coming. They say they’re not going to allow this kind of animal abuse in their city.