Price put on head of those who abandon horses

February 11, 2009

A United States animal welfare group has put a bounty on the head of those who abandon horses.

The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) announced this week it has set up an abandoned horse reward fund.

Under the scheme, individuals providing information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone who abandons a horse in violation of state law will be rewarded with up to $US1000 by the AWI.

"We've heard time and time again from those defending horse slaughter that the fight to end this cruel practice has led to an increase in abandoned horses," said Chris Heyde, AWI's deputy director of government and legal affairs.

"The truth is that the number of American horses going to slaughter now is the same or higher as before the domestic plants closed under state law. In fact, killer buyers seem to be buying more horses than when the plants were open."

Under the programme, those with evidence should first contact their local police department, provide as many details as possible about the horse abandonment situation and let the department know about the Animal Welfare Institute Abandoned Horse Reward Fund.

Eligibility for rewards and specific reward amounts will be determined by AWI.

"If horses are being neglected or abandoned and the law is being violated, individuals need to be held accountable," Heyde said.

"Caring for a horse or any animal is a lifelong responsibility and not something you toss aside when inconvenient. We hope our reward fund will assist in bringing criminals to justice."

The Animal Welfare Institute has been backing a federal law to end horse slaughter.

While the few remaining horse slaughter plants operating in the US were shut down in 2007 under state law, the absence of a federal law means that horses are now being transported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter in much greater numbers.

More than 100,000 horses were exported to Mexico and Canada in 2008 for that purpose. In Canada, horses are often shot to death while in Mexico some plants still use the "puntilla" knife to stab the horse into a state of paralysis prior to being slaughtered while still fully conscious.

The meat is then sold to high-end consumers in Europe and Asia.

Congress is currently considering the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act (H.R. 503), which will end the trade.