The ASPCA wanted to take a day out of the year to draw special attention to the plight of horses in our country. We chose April 26 because in 1866 our founder, Henry Bergh, stopped a cart driver from beating his horse, resulting in the first successful arrest for the mistreatment of a horse on April 26. Horses were critical to our mission at the founding of the ASPCA—and they’re just as important now.
Tana, a two-year-old filly, at the time of rescue (top) and after rehabilitation (bottom).
When several horse lovers in rural Carbon County, Montana, noticed more than a dozen starving, neglected horses on two local ranches, they did what we hope everyone who witnesses animal suffering will do: They spoke up.
Local law enforcement was eager to take on the case. But, like most law enforcement agencies, they didn’t have the facilities or resources necessary to build a successful case against the owners and nurse dozens of horses back to health. So, officers reached out to the county’s only animal welfare group, Beartooth Humane Alliance, for help.
Diane Zook, Beartooth’s tenacious executive director, jumped at the chance. The only problem: Beartooth works mainly with cats and dogs. In fact, it had never assisted with an equine cruelty situation before.
Zook was unfazed. She called on experts including ASPCA Equine Initiatives Manager Stacy Segal for help. “Stacy is my hero!” Zook tells us. “Without her guidance, I really did not know how to go about this process.”
Segal drew on her wealth of experience investigating equine cruelty to help Zook and local police create a strong case against the owners of the starving horses. The hard work paid off: In July, both cases were settled in court, and Beartooth was awarded custody of many of the horses. For Zook, her greatest challenge was just beginning: Beartooth would need to find permanent placement for these deserving horses.
Segal immediately facilitated an ASPCA grant for the removal and care of the horses at a short-term foster home. Zook and her volunteers began the work of medically and behaviorally rehabilitating the horses, many of whom were undersocialized.
Meanwhile, Segal and Zook called on other equine rescues to see if they could take in and rehome these resilient equines, and the horse welfare community responded with an outpouring of generosity: Seven rescues from all over the country took in Beartooth’s horses, until there were just eight left. Zook prepared to care for the horses through the winter. And then, on Thanksgiving, Zook got an amazing surprise: Blaze’s Tribute Equine Rescue in Jones, Oklahoma, had an opening for the last eight horses. By December, every horse had been placed.
Today, many of these horses are in loving homes, while others are in sanctuaries. One is now a trail horse, two were adopted out together to be well-loved companion animals, and still another is a working cow horse. This spring Hazel, a mare who went to Zuma’s Rescue Ranch in Littleton, Colorado, gave birth to a foal. Hazel and baby will remain on the ranch as a part of its humane education program.
Should equine cruelty occur in Carbon County again, Segal notes, the police and Beartooth are now ready to confidently take on the case. We’re thrilled to have helped.
“The best part is that these horses have found a better tomorrow,” Zook tells us.
Great news! Federal money for inspecting horse slaughter plants in the United States could soon be off the table, which would prevent the slaughter of horses for human consumption in the U.S. President Obama’s newly released FY 2014 budget proposal includes a request for Congress to block spending by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to inspect U.S. horse slaughter plants.
In 2005, a similar spending prohibition was passed by landslide, bipartisan votes in the House and Senate, shutting down horse slaughter operations in the U.S. However, it was not renewed in 2011, which created the potential for horse slaughter plants to reopen—at the expense of American taxpayers. Horse slaughter proponents wasted no time scouting locations: at least six applications to slaughter horses for human consumption have already been filed with the USDA.
“We are grateful to the White House and USDA for their leadership in ensuring that American horses are not slaughtered on our own soil for foreign demand, especially in light of the daily news from Europe about the horrors of discovering horse meat mixed with frozen lasagna and toxic chemicals in horse flesh sold for food,” says Nancy Perry, Senior Vice President of ASPCA Government Relations. “Wasting tax dollars on cruel and dangerous practices makes no sense, and we urge Congress to adopt this budget cut.”
Help us ensure that Capitol Hill hears the message to protect our horses, both here and abroad! The pro-slaughter industry will lobby intensely against this newest effort to prohibit federal dollars from being spent on horse slaughter, and our goal is to stop all American horses from experiencing the horrors of slaughter wherever it occurs, so we must continue to support the SAFE Act.
When the news broke that New Mexico could be weeks away from opening a horse slaughter plant, our hearts went out not only to the horses who would fall victim to gruesome deaths, but also to the citizens of New Mexico. If the plant opens, New Mexico’s reputation will be blackened by its association with the incredible cruelty inherent to this grisly industry—and its citizens will be burdened by the economic peril, decline in property values, chronic environmental hazards and awful stench that horse slaughter plants bring to communities.
There is a broad consensus in this nation that horses should not be slaughtered for human consumption—and New Mexico is no exception. A new statewide poll shows that 70% of New Mexico voters are opposed to the slaughter of U.S. horses for human consumption and do not want a horse slaughter plant in their community. This strong opposition is represented across political parties, ethnicities and locations within the state.
Last week, the Internet exploded over a widely shared video of a New Mexico man, Tim Sappington, shooting a seemingly healthy, young horse between the eyes while cursing out “animal activists.” The video is horrifying, and Sappington is under investigation by the New Mexico Livestock Board for animal cruelty.
Sappington worked for the Valley Meat Company in Roswell, New Mexico—the same slaughterhouse that has an application pending with the USDA for permission to slaughter horses for human consumption.
While we mourn Sappington’s victim, this callous fan of horse meat may have actually helped our mission more than he harmed it by exposing horse slaughter for what it is: cold and cruel. The video generated a firestorm of public and media criticism about the ongoing efforts to reopen horse slaughter plants in the U.S., as well as interest in the related legislative efforts to prevent it.