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Action Alert "Inside an Equine Slaughterhouse" Action Alert
Warning: The above link contains images that were taken from an equine slaughterhouse. These photographs may not be suitable for viewing by children and other sensitive individuals.

During the last decade, horse slaughter in the U.S. has dropped so dramatically that only five of the fifteen equine slaughterhouses in this country have closed down. However, mad cow and foot-and-mouth diseases are changing this. These diseases have devastated European livestock markets to the point where a number a European countries are turning to the U.S. for an increase in exported horse meat.

This new demand has catapulted the auction price of slaughter horses. For ten years the average auction price for a horse going to slaughter has hovered around $500. This price has climbed to $800 and higher. According to a recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, "more horses than ever are heading for slaughterhouses here and in Canada."

Statistically, the numbers are alarming. According to the USDA 8,600 horses were slaughtered at two packing houses in Texas during the last quarter of 2000. During the first quarter of 2001, 11,000 horses were slaughtered in the state. Even more horrifying is the direct correlation between horse theft and the price per pound of horse meat - when the price of horse flesh goes up, so does horse theft. The profit margin for horse thieves is 100% when they sell to slaughterhouses.

Horses who are at greatest risk for theft are those who willingly follow anyone into a trailer, and are left unattended for long hours on small private horse properties while their owners are either gone for the day, or out of town and left in the care of a pet-sitting service. This is especially so in secluded areas where there may be several acres between neighboring homes.

The lowest risk horses are those who live at private boarding facilities where there is a lot of activity during the day, with horse owners coming and going, everyone knows each other, and the proprietors and ranch help live on the premises.

While no horse is 100% safe from thieves, there is much you can do to slow down these people and make stealing your equine companion extremely difficult, if not impossible. Below is a comprehensive list for you to consider as you look at your own stabling situation and evaluate just how vulnerable your horse(s) may be to theft. Project Equus believes in leaving nothing to chance recommends ALL OF THEM!

NOTE: For purposes of simplicity, we use the term “horse” to represent all equines.

Keep current pictures of your horse(s) from all sides including from above - the angle which most people looking for horses at auctions and slaughterhouses will see them. Photograph them with and without winter hair coats, when they are muddy and when they are clean. Take close-up photographs of distinct scars, brands, freeze-marks and other marks that are unique to your horse(s) such as a splash of white coloring that looks like a map of the United States, etc. Continue taking pictures as your horse(s) ages. If s/he has been freeze marked (not freeze branded), take a close-up photograph of the mark. (More on freeze marking below.)

If your horse(s) turns up missing, you may be able to identify him/her, but can a stranger such as the sheriff, or slaughterhouse worker? So, in addition to photographs, write up a complete physical description of your horse(s). This is important because many horse(s) develop severe stress in response to being removed from familiar surroundings and drop in weight and/or their behavior changes. Write your description so that anyone could recognize your horse even if s/he has dropped a hundred pounds, with or without winter hair coat.

Keep all your ownership papers on your horses in one place. Ownership papers would include, brand inspection certificate, freeze-mark certificate, breed registration papers, bill of sale, etc.

The various methods for identifying horses are hot branding, freeze branding and freeze marking, micro-chipping, hoof branding and lip tattooing and a new system, for applying a mark on light-colored horses. Project Equus believes freeze marking is your best method of identification.

Freeze marking is most often associated with the Arabian Horse Registry, and the Bureau of Land Management's method for identifying wild horses. However, it is gaining in popularity because freeze marks are permanent, unalterable and as individual to each horse as your fingerprints are to you. Freeze marks are applied on the neck along the crest line usually on the side where the mane naturally falls. Foals as young as three weeks can be freeze marked, and the mark will grow in size along with the foal. Only specially trained and licensed technicians can apply freeze marks, and the records are kept on every horse, pony, mule and donkey in the United States as well as countries around the world.

The freeze marking system uses the International Identification System (IIS) which combines the application of unalterable freeze-marked symbols with a record of observable signalment and trichoglyphs (hair whorls, cowlicks and patterns). It utilizes angle numerical and angle alphabetical symbols which are copyrighted, and their use is licensed only for official programs. The system allows enough numbers to have a unique mark for each horse in the world and is adaptable to computer data retrieval.

In the IIS, unalterable angle numbers are used. Freeze marks are read by looking at the line of symbols and recognizing not only their place in the "string", but which numerals 0-9 are represented. The first large symbol indicates the registering organization or state; the next two smaller symbols, one above the other, indicate the year of a horse's birth, and the underlined symbols show the registration number or state number of a horse.

Liquid nitrogen is used for freeze marking. The hair at the site of the mark will grow back white on a dark haired horse, and on light-colored animals, the mark will either be bald, or a fine coat of dark hair will re-grow.

Freeze marking is the only identification method that qualifies a horse to be entered into the National Crime Information Center computer. NCIC information is available to any law enforcement agencies nationwide. Livestock inspectors can determine if a horse in question has been reported stolen and who the owner of record is simply by checking with the NCIC. Since a thief can be proven to be in possession of stolen property if caught with a stolen freeze marked animal, very few freeze marked horses are stolen. They are passed up for animals with no freeze mark, or if they were stolen they've been released when the freeze mark was discovered. Freeze marks are red flags at slaughterhouses because of the BLM's Adopt-A-Horse program, as all wild horses are freeze marked prior to adoption. Freeze marks are also a major deterrent to horse thieves.


To learn more about freeze marking, talk to your equine veterinarian, or call Kryo-Kinetics, Inc. in Tucson, Arizona at 602-749-2883.

Do not leave halters on horses, and do not keep halters and leads in accessible areas like on a rack next to your pasture gates. Doing so only provides thieves with convenient handling tools for stealing your horse(s).

Keep pasture gates locked with heavy duty padlocks and chains. Chain and lock the hinge sides of gates as well. (Any unused pasture gates, should also be secured in this manner.) Replace barbed-wire and single-wire fencing with wood or pipe fencing which cannot be cut.

Install motion detector floodlights around barns, and especially at vulnerable points around pasture fencing. An alarm system is also advised. The infra-red motion detectors are good, where there is minimal risk of barn cats or other animals accidentally setting them off.

Guard dogs, or other 'guard' animals (geese, peacocks & burros) are well-known for alerting humans, especially at night, when unwelcome visitors show up.

If you live in semi-rural, or rural areas, it is imperative that you KNOW your neighbors, and watch out for each other's companion animals and property. If you have to leave your home for several hours, let your neighbors know. Let them know if it's okay for someone they don't recognize to be in your pasture or anywhere on your property.

If you board your horse at a stable, NEVER post your horse's name, parentage and registry number on the stall. Some stables post enough information on stalls for a horse thief to transfer ownership of your horse to himself by using counterfeit or stolen papers, or even papers from a deceased horse whose description matches your horse. The only information you will ever need on your horse's stall door is your phone number for emergencies, your horse's dietary requirements and whether or not s/he is on medication, or is a biter.

Chances are your horse will never be a target for horse thieves. Still, it is very important to be prepared ahead of time for a worst case scenario. The following preparatory steps are like protecting your homes with smoke detectors - you may never need them, but when they do alert you to danger, you can take immediate action.

Make a list of the names, addresses and phone numbers of livestock auction houses not just in your state, but in surrounding states as well.

Most horse dealers who buy large numbers of equines at auctions (a/k/a killer/buyers) do so legally. Many advertise as horse dealers in the yellow pages. Make a list of their names and phone numbers. If your horse turns up missing, call them and give a description of your horse. The last thing a legitimate killer/buyer wants is to buy a stolen horse at auction.

Create a 'Missing Horse' flyer RIGHT NOW for immediate use in the event s/he turns up missing. Have several photographs of your horse printed on this flyer, including close-up s of distinguishing marks, like freeze brands. Include your name and several phone numbers, but not your address. List the phone number of the law enforcement agency in your area. You must be prepared to offer a substantial reward that is well above horse meat prices. Make it clear that the reward will ONLY BE PAID for the safe return of your horse(s) and for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the person(s ) responsible for the theft.

"The Equine Recovery Handbook", by Amelita Donald is a valuable resource. You can purchase it for $10 from the International Equine Recovery Net, 131 East Exchange Avenue, Suite 116, Fort Worth, Texas 76106,USA.

If law enforcement officials catch your thief, be prepared to prosecute. If you live in a state where horses are considered livestock, the offenders can face felony charges as opposed to a misdemeanor with a pitifully small fine ($500) and no imprisonment.

Step 1. Call the police or sheriff’s department that covers the area where your horse(s) was stolen. If you have a brand inspection or brand certificate on your horse, call the state brand board. Also, notify your state Department of Transportation, your state highway patrol, and law enforcement agencies that cover those areas of your state that are close to the state border. Fax all of them your emergency 'Lost or Stolen Horse' flyer.

Step 2. Call every USDA licensed equine slaughterhouse in North America. If there is a slaughterhouse in your area, be there when it opens in the morning. Try to speak directly to the manager or foreman of the slaughterhouse. Fax your 'Lost or Stolen Horse' flyer to him, and that he post it near the weigh station (each horse is weighed individually).. Contact these slaughterhouses daily. Below is the list:

AMFRAM Packing Company
Glendron Road Plainfield, CT 06374

Bel-Tex Corporation
3801 North Grove Street Fort Worth, TX 76106

Cavel International, Inc.
108 Harvester Drive Dekalb, IL 60115

Cavel West, Inc
1607 Southeast Railroad Redmond, OR 97756

Central Nebraska Packing Company, Inc
2800 East Eighth Street North Platte, NE 69101

Dallas Crown Packing Inc.
2000 West Fair Kaufman, TX 75142
214-932-3436, 806-525-4221

Prairie Meat Packer, Inc
157 South Fourth Street Cardington, OH 43315

Transcontinental Packing Company
Palestine, TX 75801


Alaska Beef Company, Ltd.
59180129 Avenue Edmonton, Alberta, TSA 0A6
403-476-1368, 402-475-5414

Abattoir Richelieu, Inc
595 Rue Royale Massueville, Quebec, J0G 1K0
514-788-2667, 514-788-2270

Barton Feeders Company, Ltd.
1010 Fourth Street East Owen Sound, Ontario N4K 5P3

Plains Processing, Ltd.
SW 18-4-4-W Carman, Manitoba R0G 0J0

Bouvry Export Calgary, Ltd.
SW Sec 17 TwP 9 RG W, 4 Hwy # East Fort Macleod, Alberta
403-553-4431 403-553-3037 Attn: Mr. Claude Bouvry

Step 3. If none of the slaughterhouses above are in your driving vicinity, find out what animal rights groups are in these areas.

Step 4. Saturate your area with your flyers (bus stops, grocery stores, and especially highway rest stops) and any other place you think where people might see it.

Step 5. If your horse(s) have breed registration papers, contact the breed registry to let them know your horse is missing and you want a red flag placed on the papers so no one can sell the horse and then ask for a transfer of title.

Step 5. Call the media. Often times local radio stations, television stations, and newspapers will run stories on animal theft. Hit the Internet and post to as many lost or stolen horse networks that you can.

Step 6. When visiting auction yards and slaughterhouses look in every horse trailer and in all holding pens. Make sure you check the "out-the-door" parking lot. Often "hot" horses show up at auctions just seconds before the sales begin, with fictitious papers being flashed at officials who wave violators through. If you spot your horse, keep him under surveillance, remain calm and call the police; let them handle the recovery.

Step 7. Stay in touch with law enforcement officials. Check to see if fliers have been posted and remain posted at local sites.

Step 8. Don't give up hope. Recovering stolen horses takes time. In 1983 a man in California had his horse stolen from a rodeo. Seven years later he spotted his horse at another rodeo and was able to notify the authorities and be reunited with his horse. What this means is not every stolen horse goes to slaughter - valuable horses such as stallions with good bloodlines and good brood-mares, good children's horses and well-trained show horses are often stolen and re-sold for breeding stock, or as pleasure horses. Be aware that the recovery rate is very low unless you have had your horse visibly marked.

There is a misconception that only old, broken down unhealthy 'nags' are sold to slaughter. Go to any equine auction today and you will see a wide range of horses ponies, mules and donkeys being sold to the highest bidders. During the summer of 1997, Project Equus representatives catalogued the following breeds of horses who turned up at livestock auctions in Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska and were subsequently sold to killer/buyers (the term used to describe the middlemen who re-sell to the slaughterhouses).

Draft/Draft Crosses
Quarter Horses
Tennessee Walkers
Paint Horses
Grade Horses

Action Alert
"Inside a Equine Slaughterhouse" Action Alert
Warning: "The above link contains images that are taken from an Equine Slaughterhouse. These photographs may not be suitable for viewing by children and other sensitive individuals."

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Project Equus
Post Office Box 18030 . Boulder,
Colorado 80308-1030 Tel: 720-565-2889;
Copyright © 2001 Project Equus. All Rights Reserved

updated 03/01/01

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