Sunday, May 23, 2010
Oklahoma Turnpike accident involving horses offers rare look at animal rights issue
Horses involved in Turner Turnpike accident were eventually bound for meat slaughterhouse in Mexico.
BY SONYA COLBERG Oklahoman Published: May 22, 2010
When Christopher Dobbin crashed his big rig into the median of the Turner Turnpike, he gave the public a rare look at an issue that enrages animal welfare groups.
Thirty horses were packed in the truck, on their way to a feedlot in Texas to be fattened for slaughter in Mexico for meat.
The last U.S. slaughterhouse for horses closed three years ago. Now thousands of the animals are trucked out of the country every year to be killed for food.
A veterinary inspection permit obtained by The Oklahoman shows the destination of the horses in Dobbin’s truck as Frontier Meats, a feedlot in Morton, Texas, for ultimate shipment to a Mexican slaughterhouse.
After the accident at 6 a.m. Tuesday on the turnpike near Interstate 35, Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Jerrad Real shot some of the injured animals and a veterinarian had to euthanize others.
In all, 11 horses died. The surviving animals were put in a temporary corral set up near the interstate and ultimately released to the owner, Terry Broocke of Jonesburg, Mo. Broocke did not return a phone call for comment for this story, and it’s not clear where the animals are now.
Troopers issued a reckless driving citation to Dobbin, 28, of Missouri, which is where the horse shipment originated. He allegedly fell asleep at the wheel of the truck.
Catherine English, division manager of the Oklahoma City Animal Welfare Department, said horse shipments of this type are fairly common.
"Slaughterhouses in the United States were closed down for very good reasons,” she said. "So now the people who are selling horses for slaughter to eat, primarily in European markets, are going to Canada and Mexico.”
More than 90,000 American horses yearly get hauled out of the country for this purpose, according to statistics compiled by The Humane Society of the United States.
"Transport to slaughter is part of the cruelty of that industry,” said Cynthia Armstrong, Oklahoma state director for group. "This is unfortunately a common side effect of the horse slaughter industry and an inevitable one.
"When we allow people to haul horses through our state with little or no care for their welfare because they are going to be sold for human consumption in foreign countries, we can expect serious cruelty and abuse to occur.”
Papers were in order
Dr. Michael Herrin, assistant state veterinarian, checked the health certificates for the horses that were involved in the accident. The papers were in order, and there have been no allegations that any laws were broken.
It’s fairly common for slaughter horses to be shipped like cattle to Texas to be fattened for slaughter, even though many cattle trailers are unsuitable for horses’ size and temperament, he said.
Many of the horses had auction tags.
There are about 15 horse auctions that operate every week or so in Oklahoma and many more that only occasionally sell horses, he said.
Members of the public have been calling the Central Oklahoma Humane Society asking to adopt horses involved in the accident. Armstrong said she’s working on trying to get the owner to consider that option.
Meanwhile, Natalee Cross, co-founder of Blaze’s Tribute horse rescue in Jones, said the incident may serve as a sad reminder to the public.
"This particular situation happens on a daily basis. As far as horse owners go, they need to educate themselves that slaughter still goes on. If you’re taking a chance of selling your beloved horse at a sale barn, it’s not always the best ending,” Cross said.
Pending federal legislation would prohibit the export of American horses for purposes of slaughter in other countries. (Support HR 503)
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