Building on the American public's growing opposition to the slaughter of horses, the Society for Animal Protective Legislation (SAPL) has joined forces with a diverse group of organizations to form the National Horse Protection Coalition (NHPC). The NHPC consists of horse industry organizations such as Fasig-Tipton Co., Inc. (America's oldest Thoroughbred auction house) and the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (the largest equine charity in the US) as well as national, state and local animal protection groups, equine rescue organizations and veterinarians from across the country.
While the NHPC's primary goal is to secure passage of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (H.R. 857), there are plans to promote and work for stronger equine anti-cruelty laws where needed around the US. To this end, the NHPC has developed a website (www.horse-protection.org), which will provide access to state and federal horse cruelty statutes, equine welfare issues, as well as provide a directory of the countless equine rescue groups in the US. SAPL's Chris Heyde has been named Executive Director of the NHPC, and actress Bo Derek and two-time Kentucky Derby winning trainer Nick Zito are the Coalition's national spokespersons.
The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act continues to gain momentum in Congress, with more than 165 bipartisan cosponsors in the House. Major endorsements of H.R. 857 have come from Churchill Downs Incorporated, the Utah Quarter Horse Association and, most recently, from the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. Yet, despite strong support from Virginia residents and its Thoroughbred industry (the largest segment of Virginia's equine population), Virginia Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R), who chairs the House Agriculture Committee, continues to oppose this bill.
While SAPL works on the federal level, Texas continues to pursue legal efforts to close the two remaining horse slaughter plants in the state (see Fall 2002 AWI Quarterly) and Illinois is considering legislation outlawing horse slaughter as well (in anticipation of the scheduled reopening of the nation's third horse slaughter plant, which had burned down in DeKalb, Illinois in 2002). In November 2003, Chris Heyde submitted testimony on behalf of SAPL and the NHPC to the Illinois General Assembly supporting state legislation banning horse slaughter for human consumption. The bill passed out of Committee in late 2003, but was put on hold due to the sudden death of a key legislator. The bill's sponsor, Representative Bob Molaro reintroduced it in January 2004, and it is currently awaiting further action.