Animal sacrifice for religious purposes is a safeguarded right, however leaving the carcasses behind is not.

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Three headless chickens were left outside a gate at Centro Español Cemetery, likely as part of a voodoo ritual to aid heal a love one that was sick. < PAUL GUZZO | times >
TAMPA — Angela Alderman make a trip to the Centro Español Cemetery critical week to visit aunts and uncles buried there.

It is commonly a peaceful journey for the former star the the Ghost Hunters worldwide television show. She bring flowers, sit by their graves and talks to your spirits.


Angela Alderman was shocked to find headless chickens once she saw visit the graves of aunts and also uncles at a Tampa cemetery. < JAMES BORCHUCK | times >

But during her latest pilgrimage to the cemetery, 2504 E 21st Ave., she to be shocked to uncover three headless chickens exterior the gate. The heads lay alongside the carcasses. The legs to be wrapped in ribbons.

“Those poor chickens,” Alderman said.

She wondered, was it a religious ritual? to be it legal?

Religious, most likely — maybe a Santería or voodoo plea to assist someone who sick, said Tori Lockler, a professor of religious studies in ~ the college of southern Florida. However probably no legal.

“When human being think the the dark side, they are thinking the the pop society version of this traditions,” Lockler said. “In reality, they are asking because that help.”


Three headless chicken were left outside a gate at Centro Español Cemetery, likely as component of a voodoo routine to assist heal a love one who was sick. < PAUL GUZZO | time >

They’ve watched chicken sacrifices before at the cemetery, claimed John Rañón, president of Centro Español society club.

“It happens intermittently,” Rañón said. “Sometimes every 3 months, sometimes every six months.”

Typically, he added, the chickens are left at the gate but sometimes in ~ a grave.

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“Whenever an event is reported, we make setup for the caretaker come dispose the the product from the premises,” Rañón said. “We would prefer that the doesn’t take it place. Ns can’t imagine the majority of the families who have loved ones over there would find favor v the practice.”

Santería, Spanish because that “worship the saints," is a blend of the African faith of Yoruba and also the roman Catholic faith. Animal sacrifice to aid cure a love one’s disease is among the religion’s practices.

“They think that by providing the blood or power from an pet that the pet is acquisition on the illness of the individual,” Lockler said.

The sacrifice is carry out in a personal place.

There was no blood approximately the chicken — two brown and also one white — left at the Centro Español Cemetery. Castle were likely beheaded elsewhere.

Still, if Santería practitioners might bring the sacrifice come a cemetery, they frequently deliver it come a certain grave to ask for the ancestor’s help.

“The fact that it to be left in ~ the gates is a an ext general call for help,” Lockler said. “That would certainly be calling on the dead or working with the dead because that help” in curing someone’s illness.

That’s an ext of a voodoo tradition, she said.

“Don’t think that means it is dark,” Lockler said. "That is a misnomer. As soon as we think the dark, we think of civilization causing injury on one more person. This is intended to aid someone.”

The Tampa just Times dubbed four neighborhood shops that specialization in Santería and similar religions. None would comment.

Lockler said that is common amongst followers the the religion.

“The traditions that are many open to the public, choose Christianity, room looking to carry in followers,” she said. “Santería is not. So they are quiet. There is no reason to talk, especially when it deserve to bring negative press due to the fact that people nothing understand.”

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1996 that pet sacrifice for spiritual purposes is protected from prosecution. Still, governments can need that a sacrifice is carry out humanely and also that carcasses are appropriately disposed the for health reasons.

“The court case recommended the they perform not leave the pets out in open up spaces,” Lockler said.

According come Florida statute, “It is unlawful to dispose the the carcass of any domestic animal by dumping together carcass on any type of public roadway or right-of-way, or in any kind of place whereby such carcass have the right to be devoured by beast or bird.”

The state considers every poultry come be residential animals.

The infraction is a 2nd degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 job in jail, 6 months probation and/or a $500 fine.

The times asked the city that Tampa and also Tampa Police Department whether they obtrude the law. Neither agency had an immediate response.

Still, Lockler said, those visiting the cemetery should not it is in afraid.

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No one is cursing the cemetery or trying to raise the dead, she said. Rather, someone believes the sacrifice can carry cure a love one.

“It have to be because that something serious,” Lockler said. “They wouldn’t execute this for bronchitis."

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