Alberta SPCA: Improving the Welfare of Horses through Death

Screengrab from the website of the Alberta Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Screengrab from the website of the Alberta Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

In February, the Alberta SPCA seized 58 horses from a Canadian farm:

“In addition to suffering from long-term neglect, these horses were not used to being handled,” says Roland Lines, Communications Manager for the Alberta SPCA. “Only four geldings showed evidence of having been ridden, and a large number of the horses were extremely difficult and dangerous to contain and control during the initial seizure.”

Neglected horses were difficult to control when strangers came to put them in trailers and take them away from their home?  Gee, whodathunkit?  The SPCA killed 19 of the stallions after the 10 day holding period for “public safety” and another 5 for “medical reasons”.  Roland Lines, spokesman for the Alberta SPCA, “confirmed the animals were euthanized [in March] by drug, which he said was more humane than being shot.” Five horses were “rehomed”.  And then there were 29:

The numbers include 8 geldings, 8 mares (6 of which are pregnant) and 13 young stock.

Twenty-five of those horses were sold at public auction last week.  Although the SPCA had intended to send all 29 to auction, the group decided to hold 4 back to “get them healthy”. A licensed livestock dealer bought 16 of the horses and killed 3 to sell for meat because they were “too crippled”. I was unable to find any details on the other 9 horses bought at the auction.  Local horse lovers were not pleased:

“I think it’s horrendous that this is happening today, that we haven’t had an emergency adopt-a-thon of these horses,” complains horse enthusiast Keely Dobbyn. “I know lots of people that would go out and try and rescue these animals, and instead this is the easy way out.”

The Alberta SPCA posted a media release on its website in response to the public outrage.  In it, the organization blames the former owner (under whose care the horses were at least alive and there was hope for true rescue) and defends horse auctions as transparent.

“Yay transparency!” – No Dead Horse, ever.

I am including the end of the SPCA’s media release and would remind you as you read it that the the group’s spokesman said injection is a more humane method of killing than gunshot.  Horses who are sold for their meat can not be killed by injection.  If you want to read the gory details, try Google or check out the Wiki page on horse slaughter.  I would also remind you the SPCA killed 24 of the horses after their holding period expired and that 6 of the mares from the remaining 29 were pregnant.

The actions of the Alberta SPCA have improved the welfare of these horses. Their new owners, whatever their reasons for buying the horses, are required to protect them from distress and see to their needs for food, water, shelter and veterinary care.

How much food and water does a dead horse need?

Thanks for the horse care tips and best practices information, Alberta SPCA.

(Thank you Brandi for alerting me to this story.)

16 thoughts on “Alberta SPCA: Improving the Welfare of Horses through Death

  1. Maybe they forgot what the SPCA stands for – although I’m not even surprised. Too easy to kill them . . . and way too much trouble to treat and find homes for them. Horses are such amazing creatures – they deserved so much better than they got.
    Stupid humans to the rescue again . . . sigh.

  2. Things must have been pretty dire for the ones killed for meat to have had their welfare improved by the action…

  3. It’s not humane at all – the footage from the Fort Mac plant is terrifying… One horse was shot 13 times in the face with a captive bolt gun before it finally went down. I think the worst part of the article was when the SPCA said: “[Horses] are part of the livestock industry, so the possibility of horses going for meat is certainly there. As an agency, we don’t take a preference one way or another.”

  4. I have to side with the SPCA here. . .

    Horses are not Dogs, Cats, Birds or Rabbits. Horses are large thousand pound animals with strong prey instincts which present a danger to themselves and their handlers. Not only do people who own horses require training and knowledge on the proper and safe handling or horses, the horses themselves require proper training and handling to meet their most basic needs – preventative veterinary medicine and farrier care.

    Not even looking at the experience and knowledge necessary, the average citizen is not a candidate for horse ownership; lacking the facilities to own a horse or the disposable income to board a horse.

    Horse owners, for the most part, are people who are looking for horses capable of performing a job: trail riding, jumping etc. There are a lot of those around. Rescue or rehab projects are a costly venture that experienced horse owners balk at.

    The No Kill Equation tells us that there are just as many (if not more) people looking for new pets as there are pets in need of new homes. I just don’t think this is true of horses, particularly neglected horses.

    1. The SPCA should have at least TRIED to see if anyone wanted them for purposes other than killing. Just because horse rescue is costly doesn’t mean no one would have stepped up for these horses. That information is unknown b/c the SPCA didn’t bother trying.

      1. It sounds to me that they didn’t even let the foster homes know that the horses would most likely be sent to slaughter after being taken care of. One of the foster homes in the below video said she would keep the horse if she could afford it. I found it absolutely heartbreaking to see these caring people who love these horses ‘decorating’ them with messages of love in hopes that someone doesn’t take it out back, shoot it and sell it for meat….

    2. What data do you have to support your last claim?

      The fact of the matter is that the “SPCA” didn’t even bother to try. They didn’t put forth any effort to find permanent placement for these horses.

      And quite frankly, if permanent placement couldn’t be found, then the horses should have been humanely killed. I’m sure they don’t send the dogs and cats to public auction. Slaughter is not humane. And if a shelter thinks it’s acceptable to send animals they rescue to have their throats slit and their bodies eaten…then we have a problem, imo.

  5. Horses have prey instinct? The only way I’ve seen the term prey instinct is to mean prey drive, as in carnivores. I know horses are expensive and take training but they should have tried. Our local shelter has managed to place horses, not a huge amount but it’s not totally impossible.

    1. As in horses are prey animals, with the accompanying instincts, which are usually completely foreign to us humans, with our more predatory instincts. This makes proper handling and training paramount: it is too easy to find yourself in a situation where you are trampled by a fleeing horse, or kicked, charged, and stomped by a horse who has decided YOU are the predator in this situation.

      It’s not impossible by any means to place horses, but I can see how the shelter thought that the auction was an appropriate course of action for these horses: A venue open to the entire public with a high percentage of horse professionals and private parties who are looking for a rescue/rehab project, and capable of evaluating the horse as such.

      1. Yes, you take untrained and/or unsound horses to a public auction and you can definitely expect buyers for them – kill buyers.

        If they were truly interested in the horses’ welfare, they would have offered them up for foster/adoption. They could have reached a LOT more people with social media than they could at the auction. But that would know…trying.

      2. mikken’s right. There really isn’t a lot of people looking for cheap rehab prospects at auctions – there are too many good horses available for very little – but there are a lot of kill buyers. They operate even in places where it’s illegal, like here in California. There’s no enforcement of laws or rules protecting horses, is the thing, and most people choose to look the other way.

        Auctions are where people send horses when they don’t care where they end up. I don’t know about you, but I expect a shelter or rescue to care.

  6. I had volunteered at a horse sanctuary here in my area and these horses are worth saving. They have blind horses and behavioral problem horses and just horses that don’t have a home. They even have a 40 year old horse. They were given the gift of life who are we to say kill them or they are not worth some effort to save their life. They did take the easy way out and did as usually the minimum of what is required to do their job.

  7. This is so awful. I believe in saving all animals, if possible. It doesnt matter whether its a dog, horse, tiger or a rhino. I dont want to have to explain to my kids what one of these animals USED TO look like, one day. If these people have the resources to save them, then they should, rather than kill them. Otherwise find a place to get the resources or leave it alone.

  8. The SPCA failed these horses in the worst possible way. Judging from the comments made here, it would appear I am not alone in that assessment. I would urge others to contact the SPCA with your thoughts…I think I would be reluctant to report possible cases of neglect or abuse, if this is their “solution”. Unacceptable.

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