Illegally Acquired Horses

Hundreds - perhaps thousands - of our horses are stolen each year. Horse thieves make quick money by unloading illegally obtained horses to killer buyers and slaughterhouses. Slaughterhouses typically kill and process them so quickly that it is almost impossible to trace and recover stolen animals in time to save their lives. Who would imagine their stolen animal was hauled across the border to be slaughtered for meat?

Judy Taylor of Kentucky sought help in caring for her two beloved Appaloosa horses, Poco and PJ, due to her own serious health problems. At the recommendation of a friend, she contacted Lisa and Jeff Burgess. The couple agreed to take care of the animals with the understanding that, if they were unable to continue doing so, the horses would be returned to Judy. Despite this agreement, within seven days of receiving the horses, the Burgesses sold them to a known killer buyer. Soon after, Judy discovered what had happened and frantically searched for the horses acquired with fraudulent intentions.

Eventually, she learned the horrifying truth - her horses had been slaughtered for their meat. Successful charges were brought against the Burgesses. The Kentucky Court of Appeals noted, "The Burgesses' conduct clearly rises to the level of being outrageous and intolerable in that it offends generally accepted standards of decency and morality, certainly a situation in which the recitation of the facts to an average member of the community would arouse his resentment against the actor, and lead him to exclaim, 'Outrageous!'"

In another tragic case, a horse owner in northwest Oklahoma contacted the Animal Welfare Institute to report that her two pregnant mares were purchased by someone who in turn sold them for slaughter.

"Nobody that works at the auction barn let me know who was buying," she said. "I found out when I went to the office to ask how to notify the buyers so I could send them the breeding certificates."

When the staff hinted that no certificates would be needed, the owner suspected something might be wrong. By the time she located the buyers, the mares had already been sent to Mexico and slaughtered.