This is the story of two seriously injured Thoroughbreds who were hours from getting on the slaughter truck to Canada. It's tragic. I am hearing stories about a woman from Delaware who buys Thoroughbreds to sell to the kill buyers. Reports are that she is altering the tattoos so the horses cannot be identified.
Two Thoroughbreds Saved From Slaughter
The tragic death of Eight Belles after finishing a valiant second in this year's Kentucky Derby, the public rescue of Little Cliff, a horse initially trained by Racing Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito and on the Derby trail himself in 2005 prior to changing hands and ending up in a slaughter pen, and the heart breaking HBO segment" Hidden Horses", have opened the eyes of many people to the potential horrors facing Thoroughbred race horses once their careers on the racetracks are over.
Though many people believe that Thoroughbreds live out their lives in beautiful green pastures on farms belonging to wealthy owners, for the vast majority of ex-racers, this is just not an option. In an ideal world every racehorse not headed to an owner's farm would be provided a humane and dignified retirement and offered the opportunity to transition into a new career as a riding or show horse, therapeutic horse or even a companion, but the reality is that for thousands of Thoroughbreds finishing their race careers, the next destination is a foreign owned slaughterhouse, often only days after they leave the racetrack.
This story is about the importance of horse rescues and why they are so vitally necessary in filling the gap currently left by the Thoroughbred industry. In recent years a few racetracks have addressed the issue of retiring racehorses and have opened facilities specifically designed to aid in the transition from the racetrack to the next phase of the Thoroughbred's life, however there are still far too many Thoroughbreds at the end of their racing careers slipping through the cracks. There are still horses being lost under the radar via the network of backstretch buyers and off track horse dealers - private pens, places like where Little Cliff and many others have been found literally hours from shipping to slaughterhouses in Canada or Mexico, or the underground network of horses silently being shipped directly to slaughter each and every week. Young, healthy Thoroughbreds, racing plates still on, their identities unknown and their fates sealed because the industry has not provided it's athletes with the safety net they so desperately need and so obviously deserve. These horses are never given a chance at survival. Often when these young Thoroughbreds are picked up at the track their trainers are the ones who instruct the dealers to ship the horses directly to slaughter taking away any opportunity the horses have for a new home, a new life and another chance. Their fates are sealed before they even leave their trainer's barns. The trainers who have been entrusted with the horse's care, paid to train and care for the horses and who often tell the owners that they have found the horses good homes, are sometimes the people who make the choice to have the horses sent off to die in an effort to hide what they are doing.
For far too long it has been unknown by some, overlooked and excused by others that Thoroughbreds have been shipped off of racetracks everywhere and sent to slaughter. It is unacceptable in this day and age to sweep horse slaughter under the rug or to pretend it no longer happens. Great changes have been announced in the racing industry as a direct result of media attention. We commend those who are working to make these changes and to ensure that the horses will be responsibly cared for. While we realize that real change comes slowly, we urge the Thoroughbred industry to act quickly in protecting their horses, the athletes they depend upon for their very existence, from dying brutal deaths in slaughter houses. Industry wide protection for Thoroughbreds is long overdue. Each and every racetrack should adopt and implement policies to protect their horses. The horsemen need to embrace these policies and cooperate in transitioning their horses from their racing careers into the next chapters of their lives. Owners and trainers need the assistance of the tracks to successfully transition their horses, i.e., stalls in which horses in need of placement may be housed. Shuffling horses off the backside and to slaughter needs to stop and the industry needs to begin to provide a win-win for both the horses and the horsemen. The industry and the horsemen must to work together for the best interest of the horses. Only a concerted team effort, a well planned approach will ultimately provide the Thoroughbreds with the protection, and the life after racing, that they deserve.
Truth to Power and Toy Thief are two examples of horses that almost fell through the cracks. It took the combined effort of of several rescue organizations to save these horses after a notice went out to AC4H that both horses would be shipped off the backside of Philadelphia Park destined for New Holland auction. Their trainers were told the familiar (but untrue) story that both horses would be going to good loving homes by the man who took the horses from them. The man is fairly well-known to some on the backside as one who takes horses off the track, with false promises of great placements, only to bring the horses to the local slaughter sale where he sells the horses for a quick buck. Fortunately, AC4H was at New Holland, was able to identify the horses, purchase them from the dealer they had been sold to for slaughter and bring Toy Thief and Truth to Power to safety.
Both horse's trainers were contacted and provided the information needed to identify the person who gave them false information about where he was taking the horses. The authorities at Philadelphia Park made the man reimburse AC4H the purchase price for the two horses and was reprimanded for lying to the trainers. He was warned about his behavior and informed that he would be banned from the track if he behaved in this manner again. If more tracks stood up to people in this manner, we believe that there would be less horses shipped off the tracks to livestock auctions, dealers lots and slaughter. Several tracks around the country have gone so far as to ban backstretch buyers and have told their trainers that they will lose their stalls permanently if any of their horses are found at auction, in dealers lots or are discovered to have gone to slaughter.
Both Toy Thief and Truth to Power have been evaluated by a veterinarian and both horses have debilitating injuries. There are often horses shipped to auctions such as New Holland with injures so severe that the more humane choice would have been to euthanize the horse. Owners and trainers often choose to take the "easy" way out by shipping an injured horse to an auction and sometimes taking cash from a backstretch buyer rather than paying a veterinarian to do the right thing and humanely euthanize a horse that is in pain.
Truth to Power and Toy Thief have both required some extensive veterinary work, none of which has been reimbursed by their former trainers, Philadelphia Park or the track's new retirement program, Turning for Home (which declined to take the horses despite the fact that, as horses that were stabled at the track and had raced there, they were eligible for the program.) To date their medical bills are over a thousand dollars. We have not ruled out surgery for either horse at this point. Both horses are on the mend and we know that they are far better off now than they would have been had they shipped to slaughter. Rescue organizations like AC4H depend on public support and donations have slowed along with the economy. Every little bit helps! Thanks so much for helping the horses. They count on us and on people like you. If you have it in your heart (and your budget) to donate towards Toy Thief or Truth to Power's care we know that they, and we, would greatly appreciate it. Donation options are on the website, www.ac4h.com or can be mailed to Another Chance 4 Horses, Inc. 166 Station Rd., Bernville, PA 19506.
Note: Selling a horse that is not fit for sale is a violation of PA Cruelty Law, Title 18, Section 5511, (d):"Selling or using disabled horse.--A person commits a summary offense if he offers for sale or sells any horse, which by reason of debility, disease or lameness, or for other cause, could not be worked or used without violating the laws against cruelty to animals, or leads, rides, drives or transports any such horse for any purpose, except that of conveying the horse to the nearest available appropriate facility for its humane keeping or destruction or for medical or surgical treatment. "