Neglect cases fuel drive to restart horse slaughter

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2009:
HELENA–Montana governor Brian Schweitzer on April 3, 2009
vetoed two parts of a bill passed by the state legislature to
encourage entrepreneurs to start a horse slaughterhouse, but on
April 16 both houses of the legislature returned the same bill to him
without amendment.
The provisions of the bill that Schweitzer vetoed would
require anyone filing a lawsuit seeking to stop construction of a
horse slaughterhouse to post a bond worth 20% percent of the
estimated construction costs, would hold plaintiffs liable for
damages incurred by the defendants due to legal action, and would
prevent state courts from halting construction after a horse
slaughterhouse site and design have received the requisite permits.
Schweitzer must now either veto the bill as a whole or sign
it into law. There was no indication, as ANIMAL PEOPLE went to
press, which he would do.

The last three slaughterhouses in the U.S. that killed horses
for human consumption closed in mid-2007. Renderers who kill and
butcher horses for animal consumption remain in business, but pay
little or nothing for carcasses, and in some areas charge to haul
them away. Exporting horses to Canada or Mexico to be slaughtered
for human consumption is markedly less lucrative for horse sellers
than selling the horses for slaughter in the U.S. used to be.
Horse breeders and high-volume horse users have accordingly
pushed for nearly two years to reopen the slaughterhouses, or get
new ones built in more favorable locations than the old sites near
Chicago, Dallas, and Fort Worth.
Slaughter proponents argue that the combination of a weak
economy and a lack of ways to dispose of horses without financial
loss are driving a national horse neglect and abandonment crisis.
ANIMAL PEOPLE file data shows that horse impoundments due to neglect
or abandonment have ranged from 2,375 in 1996 to fewer than 1,350 in
both 2005 and 2006, rose to 1,890 in 2007, and then dropped to
1,604 in 2008.
But numbers are often less influential than anecdotes. In
St. Anthony, Idaho, for instance, Fremont country commissioner
Paul Romwell in April 2009 asked fellow commissioners to “think about
whether the county wants to permit horse owners to haul live horses
to the county landfill, shoot them, and then unload the carcasses
into the dead animal pit,” reported Joyce Edlefsen of the Rexburg
Standard Journal.
“Romrell said that actually happened,” Edlefsen continued,
“and it brought tears to the eyes of the landfill attendant, who saw
the horse standing in the back of a trailer as the owner brought him
Late winter and early spring usually bring the biggest
neglect and abandonment cases of the year involving hooved stock to
light, as hay runs out, pastures have not yet regrown, and
snowmelt reveals remains.
But alleged inaccessibility of slaughter was not an issue in
the most publicized horse neglect case of spring 2009. The case broke
after rescuer Lisa Leogrande of Fulton, New York, found four
lice-infested and badly underweight thoroughbred mares in a
killer-buyer’s pen awaiting transportation to slaughter. They were
among a group of 20 whom the killer-buyer had acquired for $680.
“Two of the mares had won races for prominent New York
thoroughbred breeder and owner Ernie Paragallo’s family-owned
Paraneck Stable,” wrote Joe Drape of The New York Times.
“Theonlyword, who had a puncture wound in her leg, won more than
$50,000. Coconut Martini, who had a swollen leg, won nearly
$35,000. The 17-year-old mare Finely Decorated, who was possibly in
foal, was purchased for $80,000 as a two-year-old. She was the dam
of Interior Designer, who won more than $174,000.”
Investigating, New York State Horse Council representative
Colleen Segarra visited Paragallo’s Center Brook Farm in Climax, New
York, and filed a complaint with state police about what she saw.
Following a police raid, the Hudson Greene Humane Society took over
care of 177 horses who were found in similar condition.
“Paragallo, who said he hadn’t been to the farm in nine
months, agreed to give away 67 horses he didn’t want after he was
arrested on April 10 on 22 counts of animal cruelty,” reported Mary
Esch of Associated Press.
The New York Racing Association the next day revoked
Paragallo’s permit to race.
“Paragallo has run a busy operation, starting 4,686 runners
and earning $20.6 million in purses,” wrote Drape. “His principal
trainer, John P. Campo Jr., is the brother of New York Racing
Association racing secretary Paul J. Campo.”
In Oregon, Bend Bulletin reporter Nicole Santa Cruz checked
out the claims about a horse abandonment crisis after the Crook
County Sheriff’s Office on March 28 removed 13 of 80 starving horses
from a ranch in Powell Butte, and charged four hired caretakers with
neglecting them. Sheriff’s deputies and volunteers fed the other 67
horses on site.
Santa Cruz found that two local horse rescue organizations,
Equine Outreach and Blissful Acres Rescue Reserve, were both over
capacity, and that Crook County had handled more horse abandonments
this year than usual, even before the Powell Butte case.
“But Deschutes and Jefferson counties aren’t seeing any more
horse seizures than usual, if any,” Santa Cruz noted. “Lieutenant
Gary Decker of the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office said he hasn’t
seized a horse since January 2008. But the sheriff’s office is
receiving more calls from residents who are concerned about horses
they see, he said.”
Inability to sell horses to slaughter did not appear to have
anything to do with the plight of 175 horses at the 3-Strikes Mustang
Ranch, near Alliance, Nebraska. Founder Jason Charles Meduna, 42,
was on April 17 charged with felony neglect,
“According to his web site, Meduna adopts wild horses and
burros from the Bureau of Land Management and also cares for horses
for rescue organizations and private individuals,” wrote Scottsbluff
Star-Herald staff reporter Maunette Loeks. “The ranch has been
featured on Denver news programs, according to Meduna’s web site.
BLM officials reported that 175 horses were boarded at the ranch and
were not receiving enough feed, according to the arrest affidavit.”
“Meduna pushed all his volunteers away in December 2008,”
reported Tom McGhee of the Denver Post. “Later Meduna claimed some
of his horses were poisoned.”
Jerry Finch of Habitat for Horses hired a plane to fly over
the ranch, Loeks said. “We discovered two large pits filled with
carcasses. I estimate that there are 60 dead horses in those pits,”
Finch told Loeks.
Said Meduna on the 3-Strikes web site, “A true cowboy will
feed his horse before he feeds himself.”
Desperate to reduce an inventory of 33,000 horses and burros
who have been removed from the western range in recent years, whose
care cost $28 million in 2008, and eager to avoid more such fiascos,
the BLM in May 2009 will begin offering stipends of $500 to adopters
of wild horses who are at least four years of age, if the horses are
kept for at least one year. “The program is being launched in the
BLM region that includes New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas,”
reported Associated Press writer Susan Montoya Bryan.

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