We get asked all the time, how on earth does a perfect horse like this get sent to slaughter?! Sometimes we can guess the excuses and justifications, but I often imagine how the decision must have evolved.
Dream Sequence: Bob's Going to Slaughter
Owner we’ll call Christina: “Ol’ Bob’s laminitis is acting up again. I can’t keep paying these $500 vet bills.”
Friend we’ll call Jason: “You’ve had Bob, what, 8 years? It must be hard seeing him lame like that.”
Christina: “Know what’s hard? Having to buy all his supplements, constantly wrapping his feet, and paying all his vet bills. All for a horse I can’t ride!”
Jason: “You thinking about putting him down”?
Christina: “Hell no! It costs $300 to kill and bury a horse. I’m gonna pawn him off on someone else. Besides, I need the money to buy another horse.”
Jason: “Nobody wants a lame horse. How you gonna sell Bob?”
Christina: “I’m gonna Bute him up and lie my ass off.”
Jason: “That’s dirty. He’ll end up going to slaughter once they figure out he’s lame.”
Christina: “Their fault for being stupid. Not my problem anymore. Let someone else pay to put him down.”
Jason: “That’s cold.”
Christina: “I can’t afford his care. I can’t afford to put him down. I need money for a new horse. Problem solved.”
Jason: “How you gonna afford the next horse?”
Sounds kind of gross when you put the discussion like that, right? But how else could it go? Sure, most owners probably don’t know they’re sending their horse to slaughter; but make no mistake – an owner who lies about her horse’s fitness, age or abilities, or an owner who fails to fully vet a buyer, is an owner who participates in the potential slaughter of her horse – as if she was holding the bolt gun herself.
It’s an owner’s responsibility to know exactly where her horse is headed and how it will be used. Would you hand your child off to a clean-cut stranger just because they promised to feed and protect her? I realize horses are not humans, but when we take the responsibility of another life into our hands, it’s our duty to ensure their protection throughout their lives.
What's the answer?
We understand, horses are expensive. They take up a lot of space, they require special food from special stores, they require special doctors and routine maintenance just to keep them healthy.
When you only have space, money and time for one horse, and that horse starts taking up more of your time and money than you planned; and you can’t even use the horse for the purposes you planned because it’s lame or sick, what’s the right answer?
Do you have the horse euthanized, just because you can’t afford whatever treatments might keep it comfortable and sound? What if someone else could afford to care for it and give it a safe, happy home? Or, what if someone says they can give it a safe, happy home, but they’re lying liars who wind up neglecting, abusing – or worse – selling it for slaughter? Is euthanasia the only sure-fire protection for a horse you can no longer afford?
Lord knows, Swingin’ D has horses we can’t afford, that require hours of work every day, that we know beyond a shadow of a doubt could not survive without us. We couldn’t imagine anyone else devoting the time and money it takes to keep them comfortable, so we’d never allow them to be adopted. Do we put them down once we can no longer afford their care – even if we still see a fire for life in their eyes? Even if they still experience excitement, energy and accomplishment?
There’s definitely a market for sick and lame horses. You guessed it. Kill buyers are always on the lookout. There’s really no such thing as an unwanted horse as long as slaughter is an option. Kill buyers don’t care how lame or sick a horse is, as long as they can load him on a trailer. Comfort is not a concern.
We don’t know the answers. But here’s what we do know:
- We would never lie about a horse’s condition, age or abilities in order to get rid of it. That only harms the horse (and our name).
- We would never allow a horse to go anywhere there’s the slightest possibility it could go to auction, because we know who’s searching for lame horses at auction.
- We know that slaughter is not the same as euthanasia.
So, then what? What happens when we can no longer afford to care for a special needs horse that no one but a kill buyer would want, but that wants desperately to live?
Thankfully, we’ve been blessed with donors who help pay for expensive treatments and procedures. For some thoughtful owners, we’re grateful to have been the answer to the agonizing choice of whether to feed their family or keep a horse comfortable. But we can’t do it without the support of generous people who share our belief that faithful companions deserve to live – and die – with the dignity they’ve earned.