Noted horse slaughter opponent dies

John Hettinger
© Anne M. Eberhardt

September 8, 2008

One of the earliest campaigners against horse slaughter in the United States has died.

Horseman and humanitarian John Hettinger died on September 6 at his Akindale Farm in Pawling, New York after a lengthy illness. He was aged 74.

Hettinger was a leading advocate for the humane treatment of horses and was the first person to join the Animal Welfare Institute's national campaign to end horse slaughter in 2001.

He never wavered in his commitment and only grew stronger in his desire and determination to end horse slaughter, the AWI said in a statement.

"I can honestly say no other person was more dedicated to horse welfare than John," said Chris Heyde, deputy director of government and legal affairs for AWI. "We would talk almost every day about how we could pass the ban on horse slaughter and how we could improve the lives of horses. John's death is a tremendous loss."

Owner of Akindale Farm in New York, John was a leading Thoroughbred industry figure who never shrunk from his stand on animal welfare. He was a member of The Jockey Club, a trustee for the New York Racing Association, and a director of Fasig-Tipton Co. He formed Blue Horse Charities, which raises money for adoption and retirement programs through Fasig-Tipton sales. He was honored with a Special Eclipse Award in 2000.

Hettinger always stated that "his best friends have four legs." Over the last few years he created a sanctuary for horses in need on his beautiful 800 acre farm. The stalls were always filled with enrichment items and music was pumped through the barn. The horses were always his priority.

"I was very lucky to have known him as a supporter of AWI's efforts and as a friend. He was unique," Heyde said. "He is to be congratulated for awakening the industry to the abuse of horse slaughter. We look forward to working with the Thoroughbred industry to fulfill his dream."

"With John's passing, AWI calls on everyone redouble their efforts for enactment of federal legislation banning horse slaughter. While it didn't happen in his lifetime, John was certain it would happen. Now it is up to us to do just that." said Heyde.

John Hettinger is survived by his wife, Betty, sons, and three grandchildren.