Unwanted Horses Flooding Shelters

Rural residents have long had to deal with folks from the city dumping their unwanted dogs. Now you can add horses to the mix.

“The forced closure of the last horse killing facilities in the U.S., done at the urging of animal rights activists, has caused a herd of unwanted horses in animal shelters nationwide, according to breeders, ranchers and horse rescuers.”

That’s the lead sentence in an article from a recent USA Today that looks at the consequences of legislative and legal maneuverings that have made horse slaughter illegal in the U.S. What’s more, the article warns, “Although it remains legal to ship horses to Mexico or Canada for slaughter…there is a move in Congress to close that off as well.”

Paxton Ramsey, an East Texas cattleman and horse breeder, says the shutdown of slaughterhouses has led to stray horses showing up in higher numbers on public land and private property. If that continues, he told the paper, it won’t be long before the public has to foot the bill for a half-million horses at $2,400/horse/year.

Meanwhile, neglected horses are showing up in shelters across the nation. While some shelters say they have room for more horses, shelters in Virginia, Tennessee and Illinois are full, according to the article. Donna Ewing, founder of Hoofed Animal Rescue and Protection Society in Barrington Hills, IL, told the paper, “I’ve seen a tremendous increase in the number of people pleading with us to take their horses and we absolutely cannot.”
— Burt Rutherford, BEEF Magazine


  1. Ruth Said,

    March 28, 2008 @ 3:50 pm

    You are so right. But the animal activists go after all the bleeding hearts and tell them lies and half truths. Here is a couple of petitions that people need to sign.

    This petiton is opposing HR 503/ S 311

    This petition is to reopen the slaughter houses.

  2. Sue Said,

    March 28, 2008 @ 3:58 pm

    Goes to show you how simple pro-horse slaughter people are. The USA Today article has already been dismissed as having been faked. They quoted people there were never even interviewed. Didn’t you catch the correction? Probably not, that would mean you want the truth.

    The two “rescues” they interviewed aren’t even rescues. One is a breeder and the other a pro-horse slaughter broker who was kicked out of another rescues (the largest in Illinois who actually has space for horses, but was never contacted … hummm, makes you wonder why?).

    Horse slaughter brings out the bottom feaders in our industry. Yes, I am a horse owner from Illinois.

  3. Sue Said,

    March 29, 2008 @ 2:53 am

    I support the federal ban because slaughter hurts my breeding operation. It allows irresponsible people to overbreed and flood the market, dropping prices and lowering the quality of horses. We need to end slaughter, clean the industry up and protect our horses.

    People need to support the ban and end this once and for all. I won’t sign a petition filled with lies like those posted by the pro-horse slaughter side. I looked at their list of supporters and it is filled with major horse industry people. Most of the AQHA people I work with also support the ban. None of them are bleeding hearts. They are horsemen who care about their horses and protecting the industry.

  4. vicki Said,

    March 30, 2008 @ 5:59 am

    Another fabricated article in the series of pro slaughter dribble. First, horse slaughter has not been banned in the US. The three kill houses were shut down by individual state laws. Second, slaughter is still available – same kill buyers, same auctions and same feedlots. Please explain how there is a flood of unwanted horses because the domestic kill houses are closed. All that has changed is that it has moved over the border. So we ask, why aren’t all those “unwanted horses” going to slaughter?

    If you want to go by the law, technically, horse slaughter has been illegal since the passage of the 1958 Humane Slaughter Act. The act states that a horse must be rendered senseless with one blow. Since that is not possible with horses, it is illegal but the USDA has never enforced this and why new legislation was introduced to shut down this brutal, barbaric industry. Call your legislators and ask that they support and cosponsor S311 & HR503.

  5. vicki Said,

    March 30, 2008 @ 8:17 am

    Did you even think that if rescues weren’t still rescuing horses from the meat men, there would be more room for owners that have truly fallen on hard times and have to give up their horses?

    Slaughter is far from gone. The same channels still exist and until the borders are shut and our horses are safe, the irresponsible breeders will continue with their breed and dump cycles.

    These articles flooding the net are all propaganda. Read and you’ll see the same themes. When one doesn’t work, they change gears. The latest is starting the articles with owner responsibility, the hay shortage and the economy. About half way through the articles, they slip in horse slaughter and from there on, closing the domestic kill houses becomes the sole reason. Do they really think the American public is that stupid and can’t see through their guise?

  6. Thomas Lee Trevino Said,

    March 30, 2008 @ 8:55 am

    Its sad we have pro slaughter people that are so ignorant or just dont care about anything except profiting of a horses flesh. The problems are the AQHA,and other over breeder associations that lie to these backyard breeders. The AVMA and the AAEP were suppose to be an oranizations that supports our vets in the field and have taken an Oath to protect the horse yet for years they knew US plants slaughtered horses including hauling them to mexico and using Double Deckers secretly.They knew this and kept quite and now that there busted we must teach them responsiblity or fine them for there crimes and betrayal. Horse slaughter only support illegal jobs in the plants and foreign profits that pay no income taxes and promotes abuse and neglect. To think now our bill S311 is being held from passing by a senator that refuses to step down after being convicted of having his hands under another mans Urinals for sex. He also paid his $200,000 fines with his campaign funds. His name is Senator Larry Craig another sellout to our horses and responsible Americans. May the Knowledge of Horse slaugher be exposed and then abolished..

  7. Lisa Said,

    March 30, 2008 @ 11:44 am

    Can you imagine what would happen if local shelters for dogs and cats started compensating those who left animals at the shelter? If you thought we had an overpopulation problem now, you ain’t seen nothing yet. That’s because it’s just plain stupid to reward irreponsibility.

    I am not a bleeding heart, just one who expects a person who willingly bought or bred a horse to accept the responsibility that comes along with it. Slaughter was never the answer to neglect and never will be.

  8. John Holland Said,

    March 30, 2008 @ 1:36 pm

    As someone who spoke to Oren Dorell (the USA Today reporter) at length, I found the article to be just what I expected: propaganda. Blaming anything on a drop in slaughter is ridiculous at face value because slaughter has not dropped. Slaughter dipped only 14% last year while companies moved their slaughter to Canada and Mexico, but overall it is now as high as it was in 2006.

    Oren had his mind made up before he began his “research”. At one point I told him that I had requested the president of a large coalition of rescues poll his members about just how full they were this year vs last year. Since that was the point of the article, I thought Dorell would want such information. Mr. Dorell send me back an email stating “I will do my own reporting thank you.” In other words, he had no interest in facts, and he certainly showed that in his article.

    I am just glad he did not quote me in the article. Given his propensity for getting his sources wrong, I can only imagine what I would have been quoted as saying.

    The real question is who is getting hacks like Dorell to do all these distorted and false stories?

  9. Diane E Said,

    March 30, 2008 @ 7:52 pm

    Unfortunately, since the closing of the slaughterhouses, the only ones who seem to be cutting back are the responsible breeders. “Foal mill” breeders are still breeding since they know that somewhere someone will fall for the bleeding heart “save the foalies” attitude. And failing that, there’s always those trucks leaving the US for the Canadian and Mexican slaughterhouses…

  10. vicki Said,

    April 2, 2008 @ 4:25 pm

    Diane, E, of course you’re not seeing a slowing in foal mill breeders. Slaughter is still very much availalbe so they can continue the breed and dump cycle. We need to pass S311 & HR 503 to stop the transports and end this industry once and for all. As long as slaughter is available, the cycle will continue.

  11. Diane E Said,

    April 3, 2008 @ 4:48 pm

    Have you read that bill carefully? Do you realise the implications it can have on transporting horses period? To places like shows, sales, breedings, races, etc.? How do you police a horse that is “properly” sold to outside the USA, and then is sold down the line to a slaughter house? Are US horse breeders going to be forced to give one aspect of their economy, the international market?

    Read these bills carefully before making a decision, and use one’s head, not one’s heart, is all I say. If that had happened regarding the forced closing of US slaughter houses, maybe those many horses being transported out of the country in horrendous conditions, to be slaughtered in absolutely horrific situations as has been outlined for Mexican slaughterhouses by the anti-slaughter crowd, wouldn’t have suffered what ‘bleeding hearts’ forced on them.

    I do notice, however, you haven’t addressed the fact that running an equine rescue seems to be America’s fastest growth industry in the US–or the fact that some of the rescues have since had horses seized for neglect/abuse…

  12. vicki Said,

    April 5, 2008 @ 9:44 am

    Diane E, yes I have read the bill and have gone to Washington DC to lobby for its passage. It clearly calls out horses going to slaughter. If you are referring to the “other purposes” it means a horse cannot be transferred to slaughter for other purposes. In laymen’s terms, you cannot transport a horse to slaughter for any purpose. The pro folks like to use that as one of their scare tactics. If they would seek legal counsel to understand what the language means, they would realize how ridiculous that argument is. The AQHA tried that and was immediately corrected by Senator Landrieu’s office. As far as stopping owners from transporting their horses for show or sale, this bill will not impact them. Do you know anyone that shows horses that packs them into a double decker with 50 horses? If someone is selling their horse outside of the US, paperwork is required. Expensive paperwork. You must have health certificates and coggins. If they’re being sold to someone if Mexico, they must pay an import tax. All of these documents are traceable and are not required for slaughter horses – nor does the import tax apply. The owner would have a bill of sale that would cover them. Nobody is going to go to that expense to send a horse to slaughter. I would suggest YOU read the bill and understand what language means instead of repeating the pro dribble that is totally inaccurate.

    The bleeding hearts have forced nothing on the horses. If you think the conditions are so bad in Mexico, why aren’t you supporting the bills that will stop it? Are you aware that horses were going to Mexico when the domestic kill houses were open? Where was your outrage then? Where is your outrage at the owners that continue breeding that can’t afford to care for the horses they have? The only people complaining are those that don’t take responsibility for their animals. Responsible horse owners support the legislation. Responsible horse owners make sure they can provide for their horses in life and death.

    The rescues wouldn’t be growing so fast if the ones that have been in existence for years weren’t constantly rescuing horses from the meat men. There would be plenty of room for those that have truly fallen on hard times. Please don’t use the abuse/neglect argument. It doesn’t hold water. I can give you hundreds of case of seized horses when the kill houses were open. The people that abuse/neglect their animals do so whether there is slaughter available or not. Slaughter is a business. They are not providing a service to the US. They are in it to make money for their parent companies in France and Belgium. The number of horses slaughtered is based on the demand for meat, not on the supply of horses. Read the statistics on the USDA website. We went from over 400,000 horses down to 77,000. With 300,000 less horses slaughtered, can you tell us where those 300,000 horses have gone every year? As the counts dropped dramatically, there were no stories of abandoned horses no increases of abuse and neglect. How do you explain that? When the US didn’t have enough horses to supply the demand, horses were imported to the kill houses. A little bit of research goes a long way and will give you facts. Where are the facts to back your analysis? If you are referring to the bogus articles of abuse and abandonment, you can go the Kaufman Zoning website and read the reports from the officials. The sightings are about as credible as UFO sightings.

    Why aren’t you asking why organizations like the AVMA and AQHA aren’t using the hundreds of thousands of dollars they are spending on PAC donations, professional lobbyists and PR firms to start a fund to help owners with hay and vet care for their animals? Please give the irresponsible owners/breeders the benefit of the doubt that they have a shred of intelligence to realize they should not own or breed more than they can afford to care for.

  13. Elle Said,

    April 5, 2008 @ 11:29 am

    Diane E,

    This bill does NOT prohibit the shipping of horses within the United States. It prohibits the shipment of horses outside the United states via land, sea or air to have them slaughtered. Legitimate owners who would like to sell a horse in Canada, for example, will present their bill of sale at the border and that sellee will meet them there. A 60K Dressage horse is clearly not going to Canada for slaughter.

    You have misread the bill. The Horse Protection Act of 1971 should have been amended to prohibit mass shipments of all equids (Latin for the genus of horses and their cousins) across the border for slaughter. Again, it is highly unlikely that anyone would want to go to Mexico with their privately owned horses because there aren’t any horse sports there of major importance. Canada is different. They participate in 3 day eventing, jumping, racing, and Dressage. The killers will be immediately suspect since the people at the borders know who they are and will not allow them to cross the border.

    Get your facts straight or lean how to read a bill. Horse slaughter is already illegal, as Vicki has said, by virtue of the Humane Slaughter Act of 1958 which has been amended twice; in 1978 and 2002 and President Bush signed it in 2002.

    There is simply NO method of slaughter that complies with the federal statute. None. Congress has been aiding and abetting a crime and that is a fact.


  14. Diane E Said,

    April 8, 2008 @ 2:50 pm

    Ferdinand, the Kentucky Derby winner, ended up in a slaughter house in Japan–he was not sold to there for the meat market. Being overseas, I am not unfamiliar with the hoopla surrounding exporting a horse as it stands now. The bill does not make a distinction to make life easier for people selling horses for slaughter vs. non-slaughter. So, either there will be many easy ways around it, thereby defeating the purpose of the bill and rendering ineffectual, or it will be so difficult for foreigners to import a horse that they will go seeking elsewhere, drying up the foreign market in the US.

  15. vicki Said,

    April 10, 2008 @ 3:31 pm

    Diane, again, read the bill. The bill is not meant to make it easier to sell horses for slaughter, it is meant to totally stop slaughter by banning the transport of horses going to slaughter for any purpose. Two posters have explained the language and what it means to those showing or selling a horse for purposes other than slaughter. If your concern is foreigers not being able to get their greedy hands on our horses for slaughter, then yes, the bill is meat to dry up that market and we welcome them going elsewhere. We are looking forward to the day that American horses are not on their plates.If they want to eat horses, they can butcher and eat their own.

    I’m not sure what you’re point is with Ferdinand but the kill houses are not going to pay what was paid for Ferdinand nor are they going to pay for health papers, coggins or import taxes for slaughter bound horses – all something they don’t pay for now.

  16. Taryn Said,

    April 14, 2008 @ 5:50 am

    Diane, do you KNOW how they kill horses in Mexican slaughter houses? They use a knife, go in behind the withers and sever the spinal cord. They don’t always get it right on the first or even second try. Then when they get around to it, they slit their throat and bleed them out. Maybe you should take a trip to Mexico and watch. Do you think that is a suitable end for a horse who has given his life in service to humans?

  17. maryann Said,

    March 9, 2009 @ 11:30 am

    If we all love the horses then we wouldnt allow the slaughter of them.. and if we each took 1 horse in that would make a difference , we all can afford 2 extra slices a day.. ya think.. STOP KILLING THE HORSES FOR MONEY..

  18. maryann Said,

    March 9, 2009 @ 11:30 am

    make a mistake the first time.. sorry the second one is really what I meant stop killing our horses for the love of money.. sad, very sad

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