While the name sounds almost charming, Doral’s Coco Farm was anything but. The 70-acre property was a house of horrors for chickens, goats, pigs, cows, and dogs. Animals were bought and slaughtered in the presence of customers; stabbed with rusty blades and sometimes boiled or skinned while still alive.
Thankfully, the “farm” is no more. Last week, Animal Recovery Mission (ARM) and Miami-Dade law enforcement raided the location, arresting the owners and saving more than 9,500 badly abused animals. The operation was the largest rescue of its kind in the United States, ever, says Richard “Kudo” Couto, ARM founder.
The evidence against the farm was gathered by ARM’s undercover investigators during multiple visits. The videos are reportedly bone-chilling, and even some of the officials involved are having trouble watching, says Couto. Four men have felony charges levied against them for involvement with Coco Farm, including the owner. Two are in custody, while police continue to search for the other two.
“I guestimated that the owner was on site for 20 years. He actually corrected me; he’s been doing this for 45 years. That’s torturing and killing a minimum of 300 animals a day for 45 years,” Couto says.
Horrifyingly, many people were well aware of what was going on at Coco Farm. During undercover visits, Couto and team witnessed many customers on site, some of whom brought their small children.
“They were forcing children to watch animals being boiled, forcing them to watch animals have their heads twisted off while still alive. We have people on video taking pictures as animals are being stabbed ... they tell us they show the pictures to everyone at mealtime.”
Clearly, the ARM team is serious about the rescue and recovery business. They work nationally and internationally, and have closed out a total of 135 illegal slaughterhouses, most of which have been in South Florida.
“We’re investigators. We’re made up of everyone from Special Forces, Army Ranger snipers to your normal, everyday, average citizen,” Couto says of his group. Their effectiveness is aided by ARM’s special (and rare) relationship with Miami-Dade law enforcement (organized crime units, specifically).
“You don’t have this collective, organized cooperation between nonprofits like us and law enforcement. They are such a force behind us. If they didn’t accept up with open arms and our evidence, our evidence would be a mere social media post. The farm would not be shut down and we would basically be scrambling to raise awareness. It’s because of the organized crime units that everything happened. Every case we bring to them they treat as serious as a murder case — and they’re animal lovers.”
But it’s not just animals that were hurt by Coco Farm, Couto urges. The farm posed a serious risk to human health, too.
“There were large amounts of blood going into groundwells for the past 45 years. Blood from animals is proven to toxify the water supply, and right on the other side of the turnpike is a very large urban area with lot of residents and a lot of businesses.”
They also suspect that at least one nearby restaurant was actually serving meat from Coco Farm.
Despite all the horrific details, there’s one happy outcome: 9,500 lives have been saved. Many of the animals are going to paradisiacal new homes with different Florida sanctuaries.
“Our farm animals do not go to rescues,” says Couto. “They do not sit in another location and wait to be adopted. They either go to ARM or a sanctuary that is approved by ARM and overseen by ARM. Then those animals never leave. They are never put on a transport ever again.” That means happy endings all around. Some are staying on ARM’s compound, while others are going to the Animis Foundation in Ocala, Florida.
Kindred Spirits Sanctuary, also in Ocala, Florida, was contacted several weeks ago about the pending raid.
“I knew we had room for some birds as well as goats and since the sanctuary exists to save abused farm animals, we knew these guys would be perfect for us!” says Logan Vindett of Kindred Spirits.
“We took in five goat kids and three lambs, all males. We also took eight hens and are waiting on two guinea fowl who should arrive soon.”
“All the goats are very sick and skinny, so they have a long way physically to go before they are in the clear,” Vindett says. “Buttons [one of the goats] had to take an emergency trip to the vet because he is very weak and was very bloated.”
They’re keeping a close watch on Buttons, but his recovery is coming along.
“Emotionally they have a long way to come as well,” Vindett adds. “They were sitting on this property surrounded by other dead goats and the body parts of all sorts of deceased farm animals. They are very afraid of people and rightfully so. But with a little time and love and lots of good snacks they will come around!”
Some of the pigs are going to Rooterville, A Sanctuary in Melrose, Florida. Two have arrived thus far, says Elaine West, co-founder of the sanctuary.
“The two girls we have now will be spayed as soon as possible and after they heal from their surgeries, they'll lead a life of leisure, finding new friends to hang out with, eating their fill of delicious hay like quality coastal and peanut hay and eating a high quality, nutritionally complete diet,” West says.
“They were being fed entrails and body parts of slaughtered animals where they came from, they weren't sure at first about pig chow but now they are happy to eat it.”
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Basically, they’ve retired to pig heaven.
“Rooterville is home to over 300 rescued farm animals and encourages everyone to show their love for animals by eating a plant based diet,” West adds. “If we all made compassionate choices every day, in alignment with what we profess—our love for animals, then places like Coco Farms would not exist.”
If you’re horrified by what went on at Coco Farm, you can show support for ARM’s efforts, (as well as those of Kindred Spirits and Rooterville), through monetary donations. Caring for 9,500 animals doesn’t come cheap. Visit animalrecoverymission.org, kindredspiritssanctuary.org, and rooterville.org.