If horses could speak, there are at least 16 who would thank ASPCA responder Bryan Hayes for his patience and compassion.
Bryan was one of nearly a dozen responders with the ASPCA’s Field Investigations and Response (FIR) team assisting Spokane County Regional Animal Protective Services (SCRAPS) in Washington State with the sheltering and daily care of 63 horses seized during an animal cruelty investigation. Discovered on an abandoned property in November 2013, many of the horses were severely emaciated and dehydrated, with no access to water.
When Bryan arrived at the Spokane County fairgrounds, temperatures hovered between 13 and 18 degrees. The majority of the horses had been placed in outdoor paddocks; others were in nearby stalls. Eleven, in critical condition, were taken to a local veterinarian for immediate medical attention. There were 16 yearling colts who refused to be touched.
“They were flighty and would run from you,” Bryan says. “Our task was to get halters on those horses and inventory them—give them numbers and take their photos.”
That’s where Bryan’s expertise came in.
He and other ASPCA staff and responders worked with one horse at a time. After each horse was in its own paddock, Bryan used a broom as an extension of his arm to slowly pet each horse.
“They would stand for that,” he says. “Then I would replace the broom with my hand. All the horses seemed to calm down.”
In addition to haltering many of the Spokane herd, Bryan trimmed hooves, some that were splitting, including those of an emaciated mare who had to be sedated. Because so many horses were close to starvation, Bryan speculates more would have died were it not for the intervention of SCRAPS and the ASPCA.
The majority (47) horses were placed with adopters, foster families or rescue groups, and boarding facilities, and the ASPCA continues to provide support for boarding costs and re-homing the last remaining horses.
Local authorities issued a warrant for the arrest of property owner Janice Hickerson on charges of animal cruelty. Her whereabouts remain unknown.
Bryan, a farrier by trade, also handled logistics at the temporary shelter in Florida where more than 200 dogs seized in a multi-state dog fighting raid in August 2013 are being housed and cared for by ASPCA responders. Over the past three years, Bryan has also assisted the ASPCA as a consultant in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, among other natural disasters and animal cruelty cases.
Bryan has experience working with various types of animals, but horses have always been part of his life. Bryan cared for his first pony for more than 20 years, and is now the guardian of two dogs and a 9-year-old American saddlebred named Captain.
The ASPCA is grateful for all of Bryan’s assistance in many of our crucial rescue efforts. To learn more about the ASPCA’s work to end equine cruelty, visit our Fight Cruelty section.
Want to stay up-to-date on the latest news in the fight against equine cruelty?
Sign up to receive our weekly newsletter, ASPCA News Alert - you'll receive important updates on what's going on and how you can make an impact to save animals' lives!
Some foreign companies look at beloved American horses—wild mustangs on the range, show horses, race horses, even work horses— and see only two things: profit and food. They want to turn these majestic animals into frozen meat products for Europe and Asia, with no concerns about the unconscionable cost on life, health, the environment, or the integrity of our culture.
Fortunately, this industry was blocked from slaughtering horses in the U.S. when the president and Congress, echoing the voices of a clear majority of Americans, passed legislation late last week to prohibit the use of tax dollars to inspect U.S. horse slaughter facilities. This protection, included in a major bipartisan budget package, effectively reinstates a ban on domestic horse slaughter for the 2014 fiscal year.
Two aspects of that last line are worth calling out: “domestic” and “2014.” These are significant because the regulation does not prohibit the transport of U.S. horses for slaughter to other countries, and because it must be reapproved every year.
Congress failed to include the language in the 2012 budget, opening the door for a return of horse slaughter in the U.S. Applications to open horse slaughter facilities were filed with the USDA in New Mexico, Missouri and Iowa and these plants came perilously close to opening.
The international transport loophole is equally disturbing. In 2006, two foreign-owned facilities in Texas and one in Illinois killed more than 90,000 horses for human consumption in countries like France, Belgium and Japan. In 2007, all three slaughterhouses for horses in the U.S. were closed, and several states have implemented laws banning the selling, giving and possessing of horse meat intended for human consumption.
But protecting our horses coast to coast in a lasting way requires passage of the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act (S. 541/H.R. 1094), bipartisan legislation that would end the export of American horses for slaughter abroad, once and for all.
Americans are overwhelmingly on the side of the horses. In a national poll commissioned by the ASPCA, 80 percent of American voters expressed opposition to the slaughter of U.S. horses for human consumption.
Opposing horse slaughter on humanitarian grounds alone is a no-brainer. The majority of horses killed for human consumption are young, healthy animals who could go on to lead productive lives with loving owners. These equines suffer incredible abuse even before they arrive at the slaughterhouse. They’re often transported for more than 24 hours at a time, without food, water or rest, in dangerously overcrowded trailers. Horses slip and fall and are often seriously injured or killed in transit.
Some erroneously liken horse slaughter to euthanasia, but make no mistake: Methods used to slaughter horses rarely result in quick, painless deaths. Horses are difficult to stun and may often remain conscious during their butchering and dismemberment.
Others argue that slaughtering horses in America is an acceptable alternative to shipping horses overseas for slaughter. They may be surprised to learn that even when there were active horse slaughter facilities in the U.S., tens of thousands of American horses were still exported to other countries for slaughter.
Consuming horse meat is actually very dangerous. Unlike pigs or chickens, horses are not raised for food in this country. Over their lifetimes, they’re routinely given drugs and other substances—both legal and illegal—that can be toxic to humans if ingested. And few of these substances have been approved by the FDA for use in animals intended for human consumption.
A New York Times article revealed the hodgepodge of drugs regularly administered to American race horses, and resulting food safety threats. And the shocking discovery of horse meat in beef products in the U.K. and other European countries certainly underscores the potential threat to American health if this grisly practice returns to the U.S.
Last year, more than 160,000 American horses were sent to cruel deaths by foreign industries that produce unsafe food for consumers. We should no longer be party to such cruelty. Horse slaughter is simply inhumane, whether here or abroad, and a lasting end to this vile practice is the only just solution.
UPDATE—Thursday, Jan. 16, 7:30 P.M. Wonderful news! The U.S. Senate has just passed the FY2014 spending bill with the horse slaughter funding-limitation language intact. The president is expected to sign the bill by the end of the week. This means that no horse slaughter facilities will be permitted to open in the U.S. for the 2014 fiscal year. Congratulations and thanks are due to all our amazing animal advocates, who helped secure this victory.
The U.S. House of Representatives has just passed the federal government’s FY2014 spending bill, which contains language expressly prohibiting the use of tax dollars to inspect facilities that slaughter horses for human consumption. The massive funding bill is expected to pass the U.S. Senate and be signed into law by President Obama later this week, ushering ina ban on domestic horse slaughter nationwide.
“The message from Capitol Hill is loud and clear on this issue: Our horses deserve better and this abhorrent industry will not be tolerated,” says Nancy Perry, Senior Vice President of ASPCA Government Relations. “We thank the members of the House for recognizing that using taxpayer dollars to fund the inhumane horse slaughter industry is reckless and wasteful, and urge the Senate to quickly pass this bill.”
In response to overwhelming public opposition to horse slaughter, Congress enacted a similar spending prohibition each year for FY2006 through FY2011. However, it failed to include the prohibition language in the FY2012 budget, opening the door for this gruesome practice to return to U.S. soil.
While the proposed FY2014 spending bill will protect American communities from the devastating environmental and economic impacts of horse slaughter facilities, it will not prohibit the transport of U.S. horses for slaughter across the border to Canada and Mexico. Last year, more than 160,000 American horses were victims of this grisly, foreign industry that produces unsafe, drug-tainted meat.
We can end this horror by passing the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act (S. 541/H.R. 1094)—bipartisan legislation that would permanentlyend the current export of American horses for slaughter abroad, and protect the public from consuming toxic horse meat.
Join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade!
By joining the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade, you will receive important alerts from us when we need your help to fight for laws that will help animals.
“We are going to quickly and aggressively move to make horse carriages no longer a part of the landscape,” he said. “They are not humane, they are not appropriate for the year 2014. It's over. So, just watch us do it.”
As an organization that’s fought for humane treatment of horses since our founding in 1866, we share the mayor’s philosophy that no economic counter-argument stands up to the sheer ridiculousness of this antiquated tradition. New York simply has a higher standard.
So we’re doing our part by joining the mayor’s call, standing with partners like NYCLASS, and counteracting deep troughs of misinformation with expert veterinary and animal relocation expertise. We stand ready to tap into our network of rescue partners to secure potential homes for the horses— facilities and people willing and able to open their hearts and homes to these animals.
Are there legitimate concerns about lost jobs? Absolutely. We share those concerns and encourage new ideas to address them. But using fear over facts to sway this debate is as irresponsible as suggesting strained carriage horses can be compensated with “vacation time.”
This is a conversation the city needs to have. But it needs to be placed in a context of hard truth, not hyperbolic bias. New Yorkers deserve that. And so do the animals with whom we share the city.
We applaud efforts clearly in motion to take these horses off city streets, pushing both them and New York itself into a more civilized future that need not be feared.
As 2013 comes to a close, the ASPCA is celebrating meaningful changes in state animal welfare laws that will improve the lives of thousands of animals across the country. This year, the ASPCA worked with state legislators and other humane advocacy groups to score 87 victories for animals by enacting new laws or defeating hostile legislation, making 2013 one of the most successful years for our animal welfare policy work.
Here is a small sampling of new laws that the ASPCA and our Advocacy Brigade helped secure—as well as misguided bills we helped defeat—in 2013:
(1) Maryland passed a law to establish one of the strongest, most robustly-funded statewide spay/neuter programs in the country, and West Virginia enacted a comprehensive spay/neuter program as well. These new laws will help reduce pet homelessness and euthanasia of healthy animals.
(2) In Texas, cruel and unnecessary gas chambers can no longer be used to euthanize animals in shelters.
(3) Working with a coalition of animal welfare, environmental, and human rights organizations, the ASPCA helped ensure that none of the 11 ag-gag bills introduced in 2013 (in Arkansas, California, Indiana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont and Wyoming) were passed into law. Pushed by industrial agribusiness, these bills were blatant attempts to cover up illegal and unethical activities on factory farms. Defeating them was critical not only for the protection of animals and the whistleblowers exposing their mistreatment, but also for the safety of the public.
(4) Thanks to groundbreaking legislation passed in Colorado, law enforcement officers will receive training on canine behavior and alternative methods to the use of lethal force in order to reduce accidental dog shootings. A new law in New York State will increase criminal penalties for the intentional killing of police dogs and horses
(5) In California, legislation passed that will phase out lead ammunition for hunting throughout the state to protect wildlife, who are at risk of ingesting contaminated remains, as well as California’s diverse ecosystem.
(6) This was a phenomenal year for animals in Nevada, where seven animal protection bills passed, including legislation to ban horse tripping, enhance penalties for animal fighting and protect wild horses.
(7) In New Jersey, penalties for neglect have been strengthened with the passage of “Patrick’s Law,” named after a dog who was starved nearly to death and thrown down a garbage chute.
(8) Illinois enacted new laws protecting chained dogs, stray farm animals, puppy mill puppies and animals who fall victim to animal fighting.
(9) Animals in Alabama and Ohio are safer from abuse thanks to new laws that strengthen cruelty penalties.
(10) ASPCA-backed legislation passed in Connecticut established a task force to study the origin of dogs and cats in pet shops that will, ideally, pave the way for groundbreaking legislation in 2014 to prevent pet stores from selling puppy mill puppies.
Many state legislatures will reconvene in January, and the ASPCA looks forward to expanding protections for even more for animals in all 50 states.
To find out about animal advocacy events in your area and how you can be more involved in the fight to protect animals, visit the ASPCA Advocacy Center.
Join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade!
By joining the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade, you will receive important alerts from us when we need your help to fight for laws against animal cruelty.