In June, Humane Society of the United States responders were called in to assist with the rescue of more than 150 horses, mini-horses, mules and donkeys on a property in Camp County, Texas. Among the animals were nine mustangs, who had been removed from the wild.
All of the animals our responders encountered, including the mustangs, were living in terrible circumstances: some were severely underweight and almost all had skin infections and cracked hooves. Some had eye infections and injuries. Of the mustangs, one 20-year-old black mare was terribly emaciated and so weak that she collapsed in the trailer during the rescue. Another 15-year-old mare appeared to have only recently arrived from a horse auction, and sported an auction tag on her rump.
But these were the lucky ones: there were carcasses on the property of animals who did not survive the alleged neglect.
Our team sloshed through mud, grime and animal waste alongside Camp County sheriff officials to free the animals, and since then, dozens of HSUS staff and volunteers have been on the ground, helping Safe Haven Equine Rescue and Retirement Home, where the animals were being held, meet the monumental need for their daily care and treatment. In under three months, the HSUS has spent more than $100,000, and Safe Haven has pitched in with more, to take care of these animals.
Two weeks ago, the sheriff released the equines for placement and Safe Haven called on us to help facilitate the next step of their journey to a better life. Immediately, we reached out to our Homes for Horses Coalition members and mobilized our network of equine rescue partners. They stepped up, and all of the horses, donkeys, mules and minis have been accepted into rescue organizations where they will continue on the road to recovery and adoption or permanent sanctuary.
There is especially good news for the mustangs, including the two mares, who have been sent to a sanctuary at the Southern Plains Land Trust, and will once again have a chance to roam the plains as free animals. It was a truly joyous moment to watch the horses step out of their trailers and onto the Southern Great Plains. The Trust purchases land for prairie wildlife and has over 25,000 acres in its preserve network. It provides urgently needed refuge to a wide variety of native grassland animals and plants.
Six other rescued horses were welcomed into our own Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch where they are joining hundreds of other rescued animals, including nearly 500 equines. And the woman responsible for neglecting the animals has been arrested and charged with five counts of animal cruelty.
The story of these equines has a happy ending, but we will never know their individual stories that led them into this life of neglect and abuse. What we do know, however, is that the mustangs and many of the other equines came from kill pens – enclosures where unscrupulous dealers, called “kill buyers,” gather horses, often in neglectful, inhumane conditions, to be shipped and sold for slaughter for human consumption.
That’s why the HSUS and the Humane Society Legislative Fund are fighting for the passage of the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, H.R 961/S. 2006, to end the collection and transport of American horses, burros and other equines abroad to be slaughtered for human consumption, and ensure that horse slaughter plants on U.S. soil remain shuttered.
Please contact your members of Congress today and ask them to cosponsor the SAFE Act. Passing this law would cut off the pipeline that exports equines to Mexico and Canada where they will be slaughtered for food. Our horses and burros are a national treasure, and they deserve better than lives of abuse and neglect before being killed overseas.