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During a routine check around a waterfront condo on Miami's South Beach, a security guard on Sunday found the unexpected: a dead goat and some roosters, all headless.
"I was looking in the water, and I see this blue bag and it looked like a leg of a goat coming out and some feathers," said Karim Mora. "So right there, I knew what it was."
The animals' bodies were found floating near luxury condos on one side of the waterway, with celebrity-filled "Star Island" just across the way.
It was unclear whether the dead animals had anything to do with Santeria, an Afro-Caribbean religion that became popular in Cuba and was brought to Florida with immigrants. Its rituals at times includes animal sacrifices.
But Richard Couto, an animal activist and investigator with the nonprofit Animal Recovery Mission, said that he suspected the animals were religious sacrifices, something he said he sees all the time across South Florida.
The location this time was especially surprising, said Couto, who responded immediately to where the animals' bodies were found Sunday.
"We are getting more calls of animals getting sacrificed in Miami Beach," Couto said. "But I have never found them in the middle of South Beach, just blocks from Ocean Drive."
He said it shows this goes on everywhere in this community, regardless of whether it's in a low- or high-income neighborhood.
The U.S. Constitution protects the humane killing of animals in religious ceremonies.
But Couto said in some cases, the animals are unimaginably tortured. "They are being hog-tied, bagged, at times placed in hot trunks for transport," he said. "They are thrown in garages for days upon days until the ceremony takes place without food, without water. Imagine the fear that went into this animal."
Sunday's discovery shocked residents who live in nearby buildings, many of them saying they were animal lovers themselves.
"I feel sorry for the animals," said resident Renee Welch. "A lot of people aren't aware that things like this are going on around them."
Couto said it would be almost impossible to find the person or people responsible for the animal killings.
"Handle the animals properly and dispose of them properly," Couto said. "You cannot throw these animals into the ocean. It's a health issue for the public and, you know, it's just wrong."
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