Glut of horses in Kentucky

first_imgSTAFFORDSVILLE, Ky. – The bidding for the black pony started at $500, then took a nosedive. There were no takers at $300, $200, even $100. With a high bid of just $75, the auctioneer gave the seller the choice of taking the animal off the auction block. But the seller said no. “I can’t feed a horse,” the man said. “I can’t even feed myself.” Kentucky, the horse capital of the world, famous for its sleek thoroughbreds, is being overrun with thousands of horses no one wants – some of them perfectly healthy, but many of them starving, broken-down nags. Other parts of the country are overwhelmed, too. It is legal in all states for owners to shoot their unwanted horses, and some Web sites offer instructions on doing it with little pain. But some horse owners do not have the stomach for that. At the same time, it can cost as much as $150 for a veterinarian to put a horse down. And disposing of the carcass can be costly, too. Some counties in Kentucky, relying on a mix of private and public funding, will pick up and dispose of a dead horse for a nominal fee. The cost is much higher other places, and many places ban the burying of horses altogether because of pollution fears. Sending horses off to the glue factory is not an option anymore. Adhesives are mostly synthetic formulations nowadays, according to Lawrence Sloan, president of the Adhesive and Sealant Council. And because of public opposition, horse meat is no longer turned into dog food either, said Chris Heyde of the Society for Animal Protective Legislation. Eventually, anti-slaughter groups insist, the market will sort itself out, and owners will breed their horses less often, meaning fewer unwanted horses. Nelson Francis, who raises gaited horses, a rare, brawny breed found in the Appalachian mountains, said the prices they command are getting so low, he might have to turn some loose. He houses about 57 of them, double his typical number. “I can’t absorb the price,” Francis said. “You try to hang on until the price changes, but it looks like it’s not going to change. … What do I do? I’ve got good quality horses I can’t market because of the has-been horse.” “Kill buyers” used to pay pennies a pound for unwanted horses, then pack them into crowded trucks bound for slaughterhouses that would ship the meat to Europe and Asia. However, public opposition to the eating of horse meat has caused the number of horses slaughtered each year by American companies to drop from over 300,000 in 1990 to around 90,000 in 2005, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Only one U.S. slaughterhouse – in Illinois – still butchers horses for human consumption. “What do you do with them all?” said Lori Neagle, executive director of the new Kentucky Equine Humane Center in Lexington. “What do you do with 90,000 head of horses? That’s something that has to be addressed. It’ll be interesting to see if people financially can do the right thing or if they will leave their horses to starve.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! The reason: growing opposition in the U.S. to the slaughter of horses for human consumption overseas. With new laws making it difficult to send horses off to the slaughterhouse when they are no longer suitable for racing or work, auction houses are glutted with horses they can barely sell, and rescue organizations have run out of room. Some owners who cannot get rid of their horses are letting them starve; others are turning them loose in the countryside. Some people who live near the strip mines in the mountains of impoverished eastern Kentucky say that while horses have long been left to roam free there, the number now may be in the thousands, and they are seeing herds three times bigger than they did just five years ago. “There’s horses over there that’s lame, that’s blind,” said Doug Kidd, who owns 30 horses in Lackey, Ky. “They’re taking them over there for a graveyard because they have nowhere to move them.” last_img

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