NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) - Health officials shut down a New Bedford barber shop after they found evidence of ritualistic animal sacrifice inside. Now, the owner of the business is claiming religious discrimination.
Fire and building inspectors found two chickens and four roosters, one of them dead, Tuesday in the shop's basement during a routine inspection.
William Camacho, the owner of the business, said he was a priest of Palo Mayombe; an Afro-Caribbean religion similar to Santeria; and admitted to practicing animal sacrifice as part of his religion.
He claimed he never performed sacrifices at the barber shop and that the birds were only in the business for a couple of days until he was able to move them to another location.
However, inspectors said they found two circular saws, a hack saw with feathers lining the blade, and other ritualistic paraphernalia in the basement.
Michael Antaya, the city's chief sanitary officer, said the city's main concern was public health.
"There is no door that seals off the basement from the general public," Antaya said. "So all the fecal material; there were candles burning; various types of incense; that was all travelling up to the barber shop."
The barbershop's owner may also face animal cruelty charges. An accusation Camacho disputes.
"It gets sacrificed the right way. It doesn't get abused," he said. "I was really angry. It's very ignorant what they did.
The city ordered Camacho to sanitize the basement. Officials will re-inspect the building before it's allowed to reopen.
Camacho said he has hired an attorney and plans to fight the city's ruling.
In the meantime, animal control officials said the birds will be given up for adoption.
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