Kill Pen Pipeline: Experts Tell Jockey Club Round Table Thoroughbreds Are Targeted, Offer Suggestions On How To Help - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Kill Pen Pipeline: Experts Tell Jockey Club Round Table Thoroughbreds Are Targeted, Offer Suggestions On How To Help

Although Thoroughbred aftercare has been a topic of interest at the Jockey Club Round Table often in previous years, a panel in this year's program touched on the kill pen pipeline, which has proven a growing challenge to legitimate aftercare organizations.

Thanks largely to the growth of social media, individuals operating holding facilities for horses bound for export and slaughter (or people who claim to operate such pens) are finding profit in offering certain types of horses for sale. Sometimes the horses go to private homes, while other times both legitimate and questionable rescues may raise money to purchase and care for the horse. Sometimes, said Beverly Strauss, co-founder and executive director of Mid-Atlantic Horse Rescue, the same horse will go through the cycle of auctions and/or kill pens more than once as a result.

Read our original reporting on this economy here, here, and here.

Those operations, which Straus said can leverage two to three times the price they would probably get for the horse at the border, are specifically seeking out Thoroughbreds.

“Unfortunately, Thoroughbreds, because they're so easily identified, are the target of this online marketplace,” said Strauss. “And so now dealers are seeking them out at low-end auctions, and people are contacting old owners and trainers, anyone who was connected with the horse, even if you haven't seen that horse for 10 or 15 years, people are being contacted to raise money to save the horse.”

Breeding stock are especially vulnerable, since particularly young or particularly old horses are more difficult for the majority of accredited aftercare organizations to take on.

“You know, at TCA, we get a lot of questions about Thoroughbred aftercare. But the most frequent question I get is from Thoroughbred breeders, and they say: What do I do with my retired broodmare?” said Erin Crady, executive director of Thoroughbred Charities of America.”

“And currently there really aren't a lot of options for broodmares or breeding stock, generally speaking. A 20-year-old retired broodmare that hasn't been ridden in 12 years doesn't always fit into the programs of most of our industry nonprofit aftercare organizations, largely because that broodmare would be hard to place and expensive to retrain. If you don't have a back 40 acres where you can permanently retire and care for your breeding stock, it can definitely be a challenge.”

This also applies to breeding stallions; read our reporting about The Deputy's journey to a kill pen here.

As online brokers and well-meaning bystanders get more determined to uncover Thoroughbreds' histories, owners and breeders are more likely than they once were to get a call demanding money to extricate a horse from a difficult position. Strauss advises caution in these moments.

“It's really an unfortunate situation, and what I would say is if you're contacted because one of your former horses is in a kill pen, do some research,” she said. “Don't just throw money at it. Don't just send money blindly. Do research and see that the horse truly is in a bad place and then ensure its safety.

“I would contact an accredited program for help. Most of us can guide you through this issue. Because it really is a problem.”

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One of the most notorious auctions for kill pen operators takes place in New Holland, Penn., which has attracted attention from the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association. The PHBA has constructed an anti-slaughter committee and a code of ethics that members are held to.

“So if you're a member of our organization or you're registering a horse, you're going to have to sign off on that code of ethics, which pretty much says that if you do anything at all to move a horse or go through someone else to move a horse to slaughter, you're going to be sanctioned by our organization,” said Brian Sanfratello, executive secretary of the PHBA. “But we're limited as far as the number of people that can sign off on that and be sanctioned through that. So what we said was we have to try to get something done on a state level for anti-slaughter.”

Knowing that harsher, more widely applicable sanctions were needed, Sanfratello said the organization has also been key in drafting a Pennsylvania-specific version of legislation recently passed in New York which prohibits the sale of Thoroughbred or Standardbred racing or breeding stock for the purposes of slaughter.

“And we went to the lawyers within our organization, and they put together a mock-up of a bill that we're going to submit to the judiciary committee that's going to make it a misdemeanor for bringing horses — having anything to do with getting horses to kill pens for slaughter,” said Sanfratello.

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