Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Anniversary of Bel-Tex Rescue

One year ago, on June 2,2007, a plan that had been worked on for several months paid off. The Friends of Barbaro and a few other individuals, including myself, had been working on saving a number of horses at a slaughter plant. The work began while one of the plants in Texas was open and culminated when they had closed but were shipping horses to Mexico. We managed to save a large number of pregnant mares and very young foals. Many of these horses ended up at an AHDF foster facility where nearly all have been adopted.

At the time we couldn't tell their story because it could have been dangerous for the volunteers who pulled it off (and we still will not give too much of that information) and it may have endangered the horses still on the lot and those we had hoped to save later. However, some of the information did slip out and any further rescues from the lot are impossible. So, now their whole story can be told. I can say that the funds raised by the FOBs was incredible and the dedication of those who worked tirelessly to save these animals was awe inspiring and I am incredibly proud to have been a part of the rescue efforts.

These horses were all headed to slaughter in Mexico from the Bel-Tex feedlot in Morton, Texas. The only thing that saved their lives was the fact that most were so heavily pregnant that they were in danger of giving birth on the trip, or that they had just given birth. These supposedly unwanted horses were incredibly difficult to save as it is Bel-Tex's policy not to release a horse once it hits their property, they must be slaughtered.

An agent was employed to negotiate the purchase of the mares and foals. A price was set for a small number under the pretenses that the horses were going into a breeding program. The original agreement was for 12 pregnant mares. Later the agent negotiated for even more horses. The original price was $500 a pair (mare and foal) but the final price for the horses ranged between $350 and $900 each. After the first load was removed the agent told the manager that the buyer would take as many as possible and as many horses as they would release were saved.

On 6-2 the first load of 12 horses were loaded on trailers to head to a foster home where they were separated and sent on to rescues across the country. 28 horses headed to the AHDF foster home the following week.

When the mares and some young foals arrived we had a vet check them out carefully. That is when we discovered our first problem. While most were in good condition, nearly all had strangles. This condition is not unusual at feedlots, most horses arrive in good health and contract it because of the poor mangement of the horses at the lots. In our case this meant that the foster home was quarantined until completely cleared. This took about 2 months. During this time we could not adopt out any horses.

This created a problem with finances as we had counted on early adoptions to help pay for the care of those needing longer term care. The FOBs paid for the first few round bales, but other than that there was no funds for long term care or the extensive vet bills. The bills mounted and we received less than $100 in donations during that time to help with the costs.

Once the horses were healthy and cleared by the vet we could begin to evaluate the horses and build back up their health for adoptions. Finally the adoptions began. Some could not be adopted because of their advanced pregnancy. We also found out that a few incredibly lucky horses were not even pregnant, they were just heavy animals! We were told that employees at the feedlot were breeding the mares to increase their weight. Thankfully it appears that the mares were not properly bred and there were no pregnancies from these actions.

Nearly all of the horses were handleable or had some training. While a few had little to no handling, all left with the ability to lead and have their hooves trimmed. All this from our foster home who was working with a fairly large herd with little to no assistance. All of the horses were/are beautiful. All (except for two older mares) were between the ages of newborn to 7. Nearly all were in decent to good condition until they got sick and recovered their health quickly, although a couple did take longer to get back into good condition. All have had or are getting training except an older wild mare.

A year later we have 3 mares from that group to find homes for. One is an older wild mare (around 20) and we are still looking for the best sanctuary situation for her. Our foster home reports that potential adopters are asking when we will get in more horses!

We are still accepting donations to assist with paying the bills we incurred with the Bel-Tex horses and the 14 mustangs that followed and for the care of those still awaiting adoption. You may make donations on our website or via Paypal (make payments to president@ahdf.org) or by mail to AHDF 1718 M St NW #191 Washington, DC 20036.

There ARE homes for these supposedly unwanted horses, even in the current economy. We have homes looking to add to their pastures even now.

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