Animal-rights commando goes after Santeria sacrifices

Richard "Kudo" Couto is the Bruce Wayne of animal rights. He's independently wealthy, has plenty of cool toys, is completely fearless and dedicated, and is about 98 percent bat-shit insane.

For at least a year, Couto, real-estate developer by day, donned a disguise, two guns, and a bulletproof vest for nightly motorcycle raids of a lawless area known as C-9 Basin — ground zero for illegal slaughterhouses and Miami-Dade County's horse meat black market. The evidence he compiled, along with a prodigious knack for self-publicity, spurned apathetic officials into finally dismantling the area last spring.

It's amazing what a few shocking photos and videos can do to rile up an animal-loving public.

So it's momentous that Couto is now targeting what he believes is just another example of animal "torture" in Miami: vodou sacrifices.

Couto estimates that Santería practitioners were planning to sacrifice "fifty percent" of the animals in the illegal slaughterhouses he investigated. He routinely found mutilated animal corpses in the area, he says: "Some of these animals had their eyes missing, their genitalia missing. Most people think that Santería sacrifices are mainly goats. They don't know that dogs are also tortured. With the Haitian population, the longer that the animal suffers, the quicker that the evil spirits will come forth."

Couto has published extremely graphic photos, which he says are evidence of a Santería black market, on his Website and 4,500-friend Facebook page. The pictures show a plastic bag he found containing a decapitated goat and, weirdly, sacrificed turtles; a slaughterhouse floor littered with thousands of goat horns; a puppy skin that he found near C-9 Basin; and a dying dog tied to a cross.

Couto hasn't stopped his commando-style raids; he's only switched target areas. He's currently stalking a puppy mill, he says, where he guesses "90 percent of the dogs and puppies" are going to be used for Santería sacrifices.

Couto already has his Facebook choir singing. One comment, under the headless-goat-and-turtles photo: "They should go back to where they were born, the dark side of the moon! Go back, assholes."