Febraury 18, 2008

The last of the 40 horses who survived a horrifying double-deck truck smash in Illinois late in October will be off to their new homes this month.

The Hooved Animal Rescue and Protection Society (HARPS) took the animals in at a farm near the accident scene to provide care and medical attention while they recuperated.

The group received many more adoption offers than there were horses.

"All horses have been placed in new homes," said Donna Ewing, of HARPS, "although if you drive by the Carney farm you will still see a couple of horses remain.

"They have been adopted, and will be heading home this month."

Some had remained under care for quite some time to aid their recovery, she said. "Everyone is now healthy, happy and beginning their new lives."

In all, 19 horses either died at the accident scene or were euthanized as a result of their injuries.

Rescuers spent five hours removing the 59 trapped horses after the truck, designed for carrying cattle and pigs, tipped on its side.

The animals ranged from six months to six years old. Animal welfare supporters suspected that the ultimate fate of the horses was slaughter plants, raising the irony that the accident, in which the truck overturned, had probably saved their lives.

Donna Ewing said HARPS and the equine community owed a debt of gratitude to Fred and Vicki Carney, Vicki Wancho, six veterinarians, and the many volunteers in the Wadsworth area who had sacrificed so much of their time to help the horses.

"Without their compassion and knowledge, these animals wouldn't have survived the ordeal," she said.

"For the hundreds of people who offered to make room in their hearts and barns to adopt one of these lovely draft horses, we would also like to thank you.

"We had more well qualified homes than we had horses to go around, and we did our best to find homes within a close proximity to the Wadsworth area to keep the travel time for the horses as brief as possible.

"If this incident has opened your eyes to the cold hard fact that there are too many unwanted horses out there, and you have the desire to help, go to your local sale barn and provide a home for one of the thousands of horses whose next stop may well be a slaughter plant in Mexico or Canada.

"For the 40 that were saved here, there will be countless more enduring the agonising trip across the country and over the boarders."

The news that the last of the horses are headed to their new homes comes with word that the Minnesota former owner of the horses is due to appear in court in Lake County, Illinois, early in March on charges relating to the way in which the animals were transported.

The accident added impetus for calls for legislation to ban the use of double-deck trucks for the transport of horses. The Illinois House of Representatives' Drivers Education and Safety Committee will discuss the proposed law change on February 21.