Saturday, December 13, 2008

Working Together to Save Horses

On a recent Saturday night, Ron Charles, Santa Anita Park president and MEC chief operating officer, got an urgent e-mail plea for help from Diana Baker, a volunteer in Thoroughbred rescue efforts and former member of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation's national board of directors. Baker said that a friend of hers, Caroline Betts of Southern California Thoroughbred Rescue was, at that moment, at the Euclid Stockyards horse auction, where a former racehorse, Sunday Match, was about to be sold to a buyer from a slaughterhouse. The horse, which had raced at Santa Anita and had recorded workouts as recently as two months ago at Fairplex Park, was going for $250 to $300.

According to Baker’s e-mail, the sale could take place any moment. Charles called Betts and told her to buy the horse and said he would take care of the purchase price, as well as the cost of the first couple of months of its care.

In addition to a chance to rescue this race horse from being slaughtered, Charles saw the incident as an opportunity to further unite the organizations already taking a stand to prevent the inhumane treatment of racehorses – the California Retirement Management Account (CARMA) on whose board Charles serves as a director, the California Thoroughbred Trainers (CTT), and the MEC racetracks, including Santa Anita. Last month, MEC announced a company-wide policy promoting the humane treatment of racehorses and instituting a zero-tolerance anti-slaughter policy. Under the policy, any trainer or owner stabling at an MEC facility who directly or indirectly participates in the transport of a horse from a MEC facility to either a slaughterhouse or an auction house engaged in selling horses for slaughter will be prohibited from having stalls at any MEC facility.

Since Saturday night, Charles has had meetings with CTT executive director, Ed Halpern, and CARMA chairperson, Madeline Auerbach.

“We want to send a message that we have implemented an anti-slaughter policy, and we intend to do everything in our power to enforce it,” said Charles. “Ed Halpern stepped right up and resolved to find out exactly how the horse got there. With his assistance, we will talk to the trainer involved and put him on notice that if any horse he was training ends up at a slaughter lot, he will never race at an MEC track again.”

“CARMA has taken the lead in the care of California’s retired racehorses, and has done it with an organization, a plan, a strategy,” Charles continued. “MEC will work with CARMA to try to prevent racehorses from suffering such a tragic end.”

According to Auerbach, CARMA is in the process of developing programs so that emergency funds will be available for unique situations like this.

“The horse Ron saved will be eligible for CARMA funding,” said Auerbach, “and when one of the farms finds a slot they can take this horse.”

“People at the highest level in racing in California are donating their time to the cause of humane treatment of our equine athletes,” said Charles. “We are becoming a leader in the protection of retired race horses.”


Cheryl Ann said...

Good for him! Hubby and I will be at Thoroughbred Friends, in Woodland, during December to visit Joe and his horses that he rescues off the tracks and from feedlots and killerbuyers. He has over 100 horses on his ranch. My class recycles bottles and cans and I send him the money to help his rescue efforts. This will be our second visit to TB Friends.

Horseman said...

This is a sad reality in everything we do in this Country. When we no longer need the product that makes our lives better we discard it like an old pair of socks.Some day I hope people will get back to the things that are really important in life. I would like to copy your post to my Blog and make as many race fans aware of things that go on besides the everyday racing in our industry. Please let me know if that would be ok.
Thanks foe keeping us informed.

Mary Forney's Blog said...

Horseman... please feel free to post this to your blog, and I appreciate your helping to get the word out that there are so many very caring people in horseracing, working to do what's right. You'll notice I've linked to the organizations involved in the hopes that readers will support groups such as CARMA and Southern California Thoroughbred Rescue, and also support racetracks that take a stand against horse slaughter. You have a great blog, keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

It will be interesting to see how Sunday Match is linked to his last owner and trainer. Based on Mary's photo, his ex-trainer doesn't seem too worried. Will both get out of that one? Of course! It is about time that horses stop leaving racetracks with just anyone, no questions asked about their fate (illegal match racing first? Illegal, barbaric tripping at mexican rodeos first before the long and agonizing trip to slaughter? A couple of stops between the tracks and the kill auctions to protect horsemen? Direct to slaughter in Canada or Mexico with injuries, drugs and all, but without a trace though it has been illegal in California since 1998? This reflects very badly on the lack of moral and compassion of too many in racing. It is a huge relief that some insiders were finally willing to admit that many horses were being sent to slaughter from racetracks and are now willing to end this shameful trafic.
How many horses will enter the slaughter pipeline from Hollywood Park at the end of its meet, always the most dangerous time for horses for various reasons.

Mary Forney's Blog said...

As I'm sure you are aware, when a horse drops down the claiming ladder it can pass through the hands of several different trainers and owners. I would be hesitant to point the finger of blame at anyone without knowing the entire story.

coeurdefer said...

First the good news, some people are out there trying to make a difference. I applaud and appreciate everyone trying to keep this horse from a horrific death.

Second, the bad news, one can go to the CA Livestock Licensee's list and find the majority of the notorious "kill buyers" operating at auctions within the state of California. The State of California has laws that ban the trading of horses for human consumption slaughter. Yet nothing is enforced. I hope the TB industry can exert pressure on the state government and law enforcement to check the transport requirements, inspect loads and documents, thoroughly. Those of us against horse slaughter know these KBs understand their limitations AND how to get around the law in CA. We all know they do multiple ships, etc to AZ, Washington, Idaho, NM, etc. Until the AUTHORITIES in CA step up, we'll continue to work to make a difference in the muck and mire that is the auction and transport system.

Thanks for the info...thanks, Caroline!

(formerly of CA, now VA w/3 Cal breds in the front yard)

Felicity said...


I have never considered myself to be naive, but now I'm starting to rethink...I was under the impression there was a law in California that forbid the sale of horses for slaughter or for transport to other states from California for slaughter. Is there some loophole in this law or just non-enforcement?

Please post your answer here so others will know.


Mary Forney's Blog said...

Proposition 6, passed in California in 1998, forbids a person to purchase, sell, transfer, export from the state, etc., any horse if that person knows or should have known that any part of that horse could be used for human consumption. Therefore, anyone buying at auction here that intends to sell a horse out of state for human consumption slaughter is committing a felony crime.

There is no “loophole,” the problem is that the law has not been thoroughly enforced in the counties where the low-end horse auctions take place (San Bernardino, Riverside, Kern, etc.).

Although there are some very compassionate and concerned people trying to keep an eye out for horses that might be sold at these auctions and go to an unhappy fate, they cannot publicly accuse anyone without clear evidence. And that is very difficult because many buyers resell out of state and do not actually ship the horses to slaughter houses themselves.

One answer would be for law enforcement to take a stronger role, and perhaps with the urging of people like you who read about the situation, that will happen.

Thanks for asking, Pam.

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