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Posted by GoatWorld on August 21, 2002 at 09:43:11:
Men performing religious ritual charged with animal cruelty
News-Journal wire services
TAMPA -- Police have charged four men and a teen-ager with animal cruelty after finding them naked and doused in the blood of a dead goat with dismembered heads of other animals strewn in the yard.
Investigators believe the men were practicing religious rituals commonly associated with Santeria, said Tampa Police spokeswoman Katie Hughes.
Santeria is an Afro-Cuban religion that blends Catholic and pagan rituals that sometimes calls for the sacrifice of animals -- usually birds or goats.
Milton Rodriguez, 30, of Tampa, Janos Mandilego, 32, of Hialeah, Julio Aleman- Alonso, 45, of Tampa and Maximo Teixidor, 23, of Miami, each face three counts of animal cruelty, a third-degree felony.
All were released Sunday from the Hillsborough County Jail on $3,000 bail each.
Alfredo Teixidor, 17, also was arrested, police said.
Neighbors contacted police Saturday after seeing five men naked and running around the back yard of a Tampa home covered in blood, according to a police report. Police found the dead goat, which appeared to have its throat slashed, and a number of headless chickens, doves and pigeons, the report said.
In 1993, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized animal sacrifice as a religious sacrament and decided that it was protected by the Constitution's guarantee of religious freedom. Yet in 1996, a Santeria priest in Miami was found guilty of one count of animal cruelty after a sacrifice.
"The overriding issue is not the religious practices," she said. "The issue here, for us, is the cruelty. When animals are slaughtered in such a cruel manner, that's of overriding concern."
Miami has an estimated 70,000 Santeria followers, with the New York area close behind. The Tampa area also is thought to have a large concentration, with about 20,000 believers.
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