Dealing with fallout from horse slaughter ban
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November/December 2007:
SPRINGFIELD, Illinois–The deaths of 18 Belgian draft horses
in an October 27, 2007 traffic accident in Wadsworth, Illinois,
the alleged starvation deaths of four horses at the Coeur d’Alene
Auction Yards in Idaho, discovered on October 24, recent horse
abandonments in the Treasure Valley region of Idaho, and the
Halloween shootings of two ponies beside a riding trail in
Snoqualmie, Washington are cited by defenders of horse slaughter as
purported reasons why the last horse slaughterhouses in the U.S.
should not have been closed.
The slaughterhouses were closed earlier in 2007 by a
combination of enforcement of 1949 Texas legislation, a new Illinois
state law, and a Washington D.C. federal district court ruling that
the inspection arrangements that had kept the slaughterhouses open
violated the National Environmental Policy Act.
Animal advocates say the Illinois, Idaho, and Washington
incidents point toward other abuses that they have long sought to
stop: hauling horses in double-decked trailers meant for cattle and
pigs, not feeding animals when feed prices exceed anticipated
profits from sale, and dumping or killing animals rather than retire
or rest them and pay for vet care.
Horses are still being trucked to slaughter, but now at
slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada. A bill now before Congress
called American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act would cut off that
Illinois state representatives Bob Molaro and JoAnn Osmond
responded to the Wadsworth truck crash by introducing a bill to ban
the use of double-decker trucks to transport horses within the
state. The offense would be a misdemeanor, carrying a fine of $500
per animal for the first offense and $1,000 per animal for repetition.
Associated Press reported that the Molaro/Osmond bill was
likely to be endorsed by the Lake County Farm Bureau, in contrast
with the usual tendency of Farm Bureau chapters to oppose humane
legislation. “I would be very surprised if we did not take some
action to help move the legislation forward,” said Lake County Farm
Bureau manager Gregory G. Koeppen.
But stable owner Scott Golladay of Antioch, Illinois, told
Associated Press that he is skeptical of the proposed ban. “I’m not
in favor of double-deckers, but it becomes an economic decision,”
Golladay said. “Some of these horsemen try to cram as many into a
truck as they can because they have to travel so far.”
Illinois state representative Ed Sullivan replied that piling
nearly 60 horses into a single double-decked trailer jeopardized
everyone else on the road as well as the horses.
The Wadsworth crash occurred, said Lake County Sheriff Mark
Curran, after truck driver James E. Anderson, 34, of McLeod,
North Dakota, ran a red light. Anderson was cited for disregarding
the light, failing to reduce speed to avoid an accident, and not
having a bill of lading, Curran told media.
An oncoming pickup truck hit Anderson’s truck-and-trailer.
The vehicle crossed the median and the trailer overturned, blocking
traffic in both directions. Of the 59 Belgian horses aboard, eight
died from injuries. Ten more were euthanized. Five veterinarians
and numerous local equine rescuers worked all night to save the rest.
“Picture a a dangerous cavern filled with horses piled on top
of each other, some of them kicking dangerously,” Wisconsin horse
rescuer Colleen Fisch told Chicago Tribune staff reporter Jeff Long.
“They were all in sections too small for horses. For the rescuers,
it was extremely dangerous.”
Sixteen horses were killed in a similar accident in 2006,
after a double-decked trailer hauling 41 horses and a mule overturned
en route to the now closed Cavel International slaughterhouse in
This accident was completely avoidable and inexcusable,” said
Sheriff Curran. “I say this because you had 59 Belgian draft
horses, which is an extremely large horse, being transported in one
truck with one driver on one of the busiest highways in the nation.”
Federal law prohibits the use of double-decked trailers to
haul horses to slaughter, but Curran said the horses involved in the
Wadsworth crash were en route from Millersberg, Indiana, and were
headed to an auction in Verndale, Minnesota, where their owner
hoped to sell them to members of the Amish community.
The surviving horses “could be adopted or go home with many
of the dozens of volunteers who rescued them,” Chicago Tribune staff
reporter Tara Malone updated on November 1. “Adoptions will begin as
soon as the horses’ owner authorizes the process.”
The adoption arrangements were to be supervised by Donna
Ewing of the Hooved Animal Rescue and Protection Society in
Ewing, 72, testified in 2004 to an executive committee
hearing of the Illinois House of Representatives that horse slaughter
for human consumption should not be banned.
Ewing founded the Hooved Animal Humane Society in 1971, but
she and her daughter Ronda were fired by the organization in June
2001, following prolonged friction with the board of directors over
alleged mismanagement and failure to designate a successor. Ewing
had reportedly already begun forming the Hooved Animal Rescue &
Abandonments in Idaho
While the Wadsworth disaster happened in a matter of seconds,
the Coeur d’Alene Auction Yards horse starvation case only came to
light over several days, after perhaps weeks of neglect. According
to Idaho Press staff writer Sean Garmire, the Kootenai County
Sheriff’s Department received a tip about the starving horses, and
accompanied by an agent from the Idaho Department of Agriculture,
discovered 15 horses at the auction yard on October 24.
“Two were dead and eight appeared malnourished,” Garmire
reported. Instead of seizing the horses, the investigators
instructed the owners to look after them.
“During a follow-up visit, authorities found the animals’
conditions had not changed,” Garmire contined. “An additional two
horses associated with the Coeur d’Alene Auction Yards were found
dead at another site near Stateline on Monday.” The surviving
equines were then seized and taken to Panhandle Equine Rescue.
With hay prices in Idaho having risen by more than half in
recent months, horses have been abandoned at other auction sites,
“including the Intermountain Livestock Market near La Grande, where
one turned up last month, and on U.S. Bureau of Land Management
land,” reported Richard Cockle of the Portland Oregonian. “At least
nine horses have been turned loose on Wannie MacKenzie’s ranch north
of Jordan Valley in the past 18 to 24 months. The Malheur County
cattleman is bracing for the appearance of more, as cash-strapped
owners in Idaho’s Treasure Valley run out of winter hay.”
“It’s a huge problem,” MacKenzie told Cockle. “What am I going to
do with them? I don’t want 300 head of horses on my ranch.”
“Malheur County Undersheriff Brian Wolfe has investigated the
abandonment of perhaps 20 domestic horses recently, ” Cockle wrote.
“He tries to identify owners and charge them with animal abandonment
or animal abuse, both misdemeanors, but such investigations are
difficult because 90% of horses are not branded.
“I think it’s going to get to be a lot bigger problem than it is
now,” Wolfe told Cockle.
Shooting in Washington
The Pasado’s Safe Haven sanctuary posted a reward of $5,000
for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever shot
the ponies found dead near Snoqualmie on November 1, 2007, but
after tracing the ponies to a person in Fall City, King County
Animal Care & Control announced on November 8 that no charges would
Reported Sonia Krishnan of the Seattle Times, “A necropsy
determined that the animals were killed instantaneously, a key
factor in determining whether the act was considered humane and
therefore legal.” King County Animal Care and Control enforcement
coordinator Diana Toledo told Krishnan that the 17-year-old ponies
were shot because they suffered from laminitis. Toledo said that
their owner had agreed to properly dispose of the bodies, which had
reportedly taken four hours to winch out of the place where they were
The Idaho abandonments and Washington shootings occurred just
after Animal Welfare Institute deputy director of legislation Chris
Heyde wrote to Harper’s magazine that, “There has been no evidence
of increased abandonment or cruelty,” as result of horse slaughter
Claimed Heyde, “A U.C. Davis report conducted after
California banned horse slaughter in 1998 found that horse abuse did
not increase. According to the California Livestock and
Identification Bureau, horse theft decreased by over 34%.”
Reports that horses have been abandoned in National Forests
have been “proven wrong,” Heyde claimed. “An article from Kentucky
claimed horses were being abandoned at old coalmines, but it turned
out the local riding stable turns their horses loose in the winter to
“The American Veterinary Medical Association is telling
everyone we should keep slaughter in the U.S. because of how bad it
is in Mexico,” Heyde added. “They fail to point out that they are
part of a coalition with the slaughterhouses.”
The same companies, Heyde charged, “own the plants in
Mexico and Canada and continue to buy U.S. horses, ship them to
their plants and cruelly slaughter them, as professed by the AVMA.
According to the USDA’s Guidelines for Handling and Transporting
Equines to Slaughter,” Heyde said, “over 92% of the horses
slaughtered are good sound horses.”