Starved, sick and injured horses are being put up for auction in central Alberta, and nothing is being done to stop this animal abuse, say two concerned women.
“Horses are going through the auctions in alarming numbers and most are in horrific condition,” said Kim Betournay, who lives near Rimbey.
If the same thing was happening to dogs or cats, people would be up in arms, she added.
But most people aren’t aware of how some owners are abusing, or neglecting, horses they no longer have a need for, added her friend, Natalie Daroux.
She recently purchased a horse that was “all skin and bones” and barely able to walk.
Daroux described the 20-year-old mare she rescued as a “one out of 10,” without enough meat on her to interest a slaughterhouse.
But after three weeks of feeding and medical attention, which has already cost Daroux about $1,500, the horse is making a great comeback.
“She’s a real sweetheart,” added the Drayton Valley-area woman, who has unofficially rescued more than 15 undernourished horses over the years.
Betournay and Daroux know there have always been breeders who refuse to put money into maintaining horses that are no longer useful to them. Once they decide an animal is bound for the slaughterhouse, “they just don’t care,” said Daroux.
But she fears the situation will get much worse now that the cost of hay has doubled, due to a wet fall, and some people are selling their horses at a loss, or even giving them away.
Daroux urges owners who can’t afford their animals, and can’t find another owner for them, to treat their horses as humanely as cat and dog owners, and put them down so they don’t suffer starvation.
Betournay recently attended three horse auctions across the region and saw horses unloaded at each in conditions she says contravene the province’s Animal Protection Act. It stipulates that sick, injured, fatigued or suffering livestock must not be transported.
Yet she said brand inspectors, who are tasked with looking after animal welfare, shrugged off her concerns.
“Why is this OK in 2019?” Betournay questioned.
Daroux said some auction house owners, who also profit from the sales of these animals, actually throw people out who are caught taking pictures of starving horses.
She wants auction mart owners to instead take a collective stand against animal abuse. She also wants the Alberta SPCA to investigate these complaints.
“I am very concerned that due to our society and government officials turning a blind eye, many more horses will have to suffer,” said Betournay.
Those responsible for the poor condition of these animals should not “continue to get away with it” — or even be financially compensated through the sales, the two women say.
Daroux thinks it would be more fair to make them pay to bring the animal back to good health.
The Alberta SPCA’s communications manager, Dan Kobe, invites people with complaints about the state of horses at auctions to call the SPCA directly — not assume allegations will be investigated because they are on social media or heard second-hand.
“We ask complainants to call our Animal Protection Line at 1-800-455-9003. Even if the animal has been sold at auction, we have the ability to follow up and check on the animal’s welfare and the conditions it was sold under,” he said.
Kobe said one complaint came in this week about the condition of horses at auction marts. “We have opened a file and are awaiting additional information from the complainant in order to proceed with the investigation.”
Due to privacy considerations, names will not be divulged unless charges are laid.
He noted the Alberta SPCA has 10 peace officers that cover all areas of Alberta outside of Edmonton and Calgary. “We do not have the manpower to monitor all auctions in the province so we depend on Albertans to report situations where they believe animals may be in distress.”