County Seizes Horse on Animal Cruelty Charges

Warning: This story contains graphic images of injured and dying horses and may not be appropriate for all readers.

The owner of a thoroughbred race horse seized by the Clarke County Sheriff’s on August 2nd will be arraigned in Clarke County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court on Friday August 12th. Court documents allege that the animal’s owner, Sylvester McGill of Charles Town, West Virginia, allowed the animal to be “neglected, cruelly treated and deprived of necessary food, drink, shelter or emergency veterinary treatment so as to constitute a direct and immediate threat” to the horse’s life.

"Sonny B Crus in", a five-year-old chestnut gelding thoroughbred, is recovering at a local animal hospital - Photo courtesy Harrison Equine

“Sonny B Crus in”, a five-year-old chestnut gelding thoroughbred, was seized from a farm at 77 Clifton Road in Berryville, Virginia by Sheriff’s deputies Sergeant Kenny Gall and Jimmy Herron after receiving a complaint from a citizen. Upon arrival at the farm where the horse was being kept, Gall and Herron determined that the animal’s conditions were life threatening.

“We could see right away that the horse was in poor condition” Sergeant Gall said. “We contacted veterinarian Ian Harrison and described the animal’s condition to him. Based on Dr. Harrison’s recommendation we decided to seize the animal and have it transported for medical attention.”

“I examined the horse and found him to be depressed, emaciated and unwilling to walk” Harrison said in letter included in court documents that will presented on Friday. “There were chronic abrasions, contusions and lacerations over his entire body, the right stifle was dramatically swollen and there was a large puncture wound apparently involving the right hock.”

Harrison also noted that Sonny’s blood work was compatible with chronic infection and muscle wasting and that a fecal exam confirmed indicated a significant gastro-intestinal parasite burden.

“Sonny basically looks like he has been hit by a truck” Dr. Harrison said in a phone call from his Clarke County veterinary clinic. “He’s got wounds, scars and swelling all over his body.”

Harrison, who has been a veterinarian for 35 years and has practiced in Clarke County for the last four years, said that Sonny’s condition is even more shocking given the fact that he was racing at Charles Town racetrack as recently as May, 2011.

“Every thoroughbred has a registration number tattooed on the inside of its lip” Harrison pointed out. “Based on Sonny’s tatoo we know that he was healthy enough to race in May. It’s amazing how fast he has declined. He looks like a bag of bones now.”

Horse owner and enthusiast Robina Bouffault said “It’s easy for me to become  quite incensed when I see such needless cruelty to any animal.”

“Sonny was indeed a good racing animal in West Virginia, and it is my understanding that he had won more than one race this year” Bouffault said. “I can only surmise that he must have had some kind of injury and so was ‘dumped’ by his owner. The field where he was dumped, while in Clarke County, is owned by a West Virginia resident active in the racing industry. And “neglect” is not the proper word here – it was very deliberate abuse. The horse was so terribly emaciated and so badly torn up, it is a miracle he is still alive.”

Open wounds on a Clarke County horse seized earlier in the week - Photo courtesy Harrison Equine

Bouffault describes Clarke County as a very ‘horsey’ community with in excess of 8,000 horses. She said that although Clarke County has had a few incidences of horse neglect, on the whole, local horse owners are very responsible with the care of their horses.

“What neglect we do see is more a question of the owner’s economic stress due to the very poor economy and complete lack of a valid horse market – with sales of performance horses low to non-existent” Bouffault said.

Dr. Harrison says that he has seen the instance of horse abuse increase by 30% – 40% over the past year. He attributes much of the problem to Congress’s changes last year to legislation governing horse slaughter. Harrison said legal changes that restrict what can be done with an animal’s remains after it has been euthanized has made the animals “worthless” from an economic point of view once they are no longer wanted by their owners.

“Congress should have addressed the issue of how horse slaughter could be carried out humanely but they didn’t” Harrison said “The new laws leave the owner with no way to get rid of the horse.”

To illustrate the problem of unwanted horses in this area, Harrison said that a friend of his recently went to a horse auction in Winchester and took along his horse trailer.

“When he came back to his trailer someone had placed two skinny horses in the trailer just to get rid of them” Harrison said.

Dr. Ian Harrison is seeing an increase in the cases of abused horses - Photo courtesy Harrison Equine

Robina Bouffault attributes much of the horse neglect problem to the lack of oversight by the industry that benefits most from horses; horse breeders and racers.

“The main culprits in this matter are the racing industry” Bouffault said. “Clarke is next door to the Charles Town, West Virginia race track, where if a horse is no longer usable to race, either due to injury or other factors – like being “slow” – it is simply “thrown away” like a piece of used Kleenex to a fate too often of neglect or death, even when very young. “Sonny” is a product of that world, where fully 95% of thoroughbreds bred for racing end up with very uncertain and often agonizing futures.”

Bouffault said that horse racing participants should be asked why they have yet to reform an industry that obviously results in “so much neglect and abuse of the horses we all love”.

Although Sonny’s rescue by the Clarke County Sherriff’s Department appears to have saved the animal’s life – Dr. Harrison says that Sonny’s prognosis for recovery should be excellent – Bouffault says that other horses on the farm where Sonny was seized have not fared as well.

“In January 2010, I intervened directly in an abuse case in the same field, where the horse had to be euthanized” Bouffault said. Bouffault described a moving scene where a dying horse lay next to the remnants of a hay bale provided by compassionate neighbors the day before. Bouffault said that the hay bale was quickly eaten by the 15 horses being boarded in the field at the time.

For Bouffault, preventing animal abuse – including dogs and cats – is an important part of her life’s work. In addition to her many civic responsibilities, Sonny’s rescue is part of a long-term coordinated effort with the Clarke County Sheriff’s Department to focus more on animal cruelty. Bouffault has also financed a flyer distributed by the Clarke County Equine Association to educate the public on the impacts and issues associated with abused animals.

She has also created an ad-hoc shelter for abused horses on her White Post farm.

“Hopefully, the owner will NOT get the horse back, given his poor treatment of his horse to-date” Bouffault said. “I have offered to take the horse at my farm, to join a few others I have in what I call my “welfare field”, with lots of grass and good care. Sonny is indeed in VERY bad shape and whether or not he will ever be usable as a riding horse is unknown. However, I have always remarked on the ability of horses to bounce back from bad injuries when properly tended, so do not despair of his making a good to full recovery with some good vet care and a lot of TLC.”

Bouffault said that she believes that individuals have a sacred responsibility to protect the animals given into their care.

A dying horse was euthanized in January in the same field where Clarke County deputies seized another horse early last week - Photo courtesy Robina Bouffault

“I will quote a saying by the French pilot and writer St. Exupery in his book “The Little Prince” Boffault said. “We are responsible for those that we tame”.

Sylvester McGill, who Sergeant Gall said has been charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor which carries a possible penalty of one year in jail, a $2500 fine or both.

McGill is scheduled to appear in court for a hearing on the matter on Friday, August 12 at 1:30PM.


  1. It is a unfortunate that this misinformed vet was allowed to drag this tragic incident into his political agenda of bringing back horse slaughter. Clearly, he has no clue about the horse industry or the horse slaughter industry other than to repeat incorrect information spread by foreign owned horse slaughter lobbyists. There is no doubt that the economy has impacted the horse industry, it has impacted everyone. However, Congress HAS NOT banned horse slaughter so that alone dismisses Dr. Harrison’s claim right off the bat. While there are no operating horse slaughter plants in the US, (the last three were owned by Belgian companies and propped up by US taxpayers) horse slaughter “killer buyers” are still looking for every horse they can get their hands on for slaughter in Mexico and Canada. Once again, this discredits the vets claims because this person could have easily sold the poor horse into slaughter.

    Slaughter is not now, nor has it ever been vital to the horse industry. It certainly is not humane euthanasia. I can show you USDA photos of how bad the abuse was when plants did exist in the US. When my group, the Animal Welfare Institute, began the national campaign to stop horse slaughter in 2001, most in the horse industry had no clue the practice even existed. The slaughter industry operated in the dark and survived on the bottom feeders in the horse industry who like to breed and dump. A decade ago almost 400,000 horses were slaughtered in the US and that number dropped to about 42,000 around 2004. Where was the vet when this drop took place? Now over 100,000 American horses a year are being slaughtered. He wasn’t claiming a problem and the term “unwanted horse” had yet to be coined by a horse slaughter advocacy group. That is because horse slaughter is a demand driven industry and not a service.

    Instead of calling for the return of an industry that inflicted tremendous suffering on American horses, people should work to end abuse such as described in this article.

    • Why anyone would give Chris a negative rating for the comments he/she made, is beyond me. Vets like MD’s are supposed to be humane, which means those they treat should be treated with dignity and respect. Regulating horse slaughter is not the answer. That is like regulating human trafficking. The culprit here is the disgusting horse racing industry. This incident is one of 1000’s in this county that occurs each year. These animals are taken advantage of, used, and literally chewed up and spit out, when they can no longer perform.

      This is one organization, and there are others, that is trying to make a difference.

      • horse owner says:

        i’d rather have the dignity of a quick death in a slaughter plant than the ordeal of neglect because the owners cant afford health care, food or euthenasia.

        • Watch some of the videos on the site. There’s absolutely no dignity in it. My guess is you are not really a horse owner, or one that just “owns” and nothing else.

        • You’re kidding, right? You actually think a horse’s death at slaughter is dignified or humane? It’s horrifying and torture, no other word for it. Do some research.

        • Do you have any idea what happens to these horses while being transported to the slaughter houses, and then the condition at the plant. There is no quick death for these animals awaiting slaughter and there is certainly no dignity

          • horse owner says:

            yeah i do. its horrific in canada and mexico thats why we need to bring it back here and get it going right

        • @Horse Owner, and anybody else, that thinks a death in the slaughter house is anywhere near dignified. Feel free to do your own research, and watch the videos on you tube about equine slaughter…

          Once the horse is yellowed tagged for slaughter out of the auction house. He vertically become meat, still walking…. All his basic needs, are denied, “IT” ceases to exist, so things such as water and food is withheld. If “IT” needs any attention at all, other than to be cowboy- ed into the Double Decker Trailer, (designed for cattle) its completely ignored. Such as a broken leg, blind, or foal at side.. The DD, Trailers are completely inadequate for equine. They can barely stand up, and maintain their balance which leads to all kinds of injuries. Horse are report showing up at the slaughter house with out limbs, eye balls, and trampled to almost death… They lay suffering, while the other horses scramble to maintain their own balance. Dignified you say!

          Please don’t leave…. I’ve got more… it gets better, really it does!

          Now If they survive the journey to either Canada or Mexico, after 36 hours in the unprotected trailes.. Blazing hot, in the summer, and freezing cold in the winter… They are then unloaded and stored, in several “Dignified” pens, that still smell of death, from the ones before… Again, NO water/feed provided… Mare aborting, and birthing right there, the lucky ones are still born. The unlucky ones, are trampled in the crowed pens, full of other aggressive mares, and stallions.. Remember, these horse do not know each other, therefore herd hierarchy abounds… Dignified enough for you….. wait I’m not finished.

          We haven’t gotten to the good part yet!… They are either hit with the Captive Bolt, (designed for cattle only) repeatedly until the animal falls to the ground, with cheers from the killers co-workers… Or, better yet, stabbed repeatedly until their spinal cords are severed, but still very conscious while they lay their dying.. Getting dignified enough for you!!! They lay their while some one hoisted them up by one leg, (still alive) and their throats are cut…. (Still alive) they begin to vivisect them, while still alive… Why? because they are in a hurry, and can’t wait for the animal to die, before they vivisect them.. The ones that are pregnant… well the foal hits the ground, (still alive) and cut away from their mothers bodies… And thrown into the trash can, (still alive) to die a slow and horrible death… Some have been reported to still be alive when they remove limbs….. SO IS THIS DIGINIGIED ENOUGH FOR YOU.???..

          Now better yet, try not buying into all the propaganda, that these pro-slaughter ppl are selling, and stop the OVER breeding so we don’t have this excess… The pros want to feed the slaughter pipe line, and over breed to help “create” a problem, so we can now find a necessary solution.. They are all benefiting financially at the animals suffering… .

          Your remarks of how dignified, this is over that, clearly shows your lack of knowledge, and you have just regurgitated, propaganda you have not done any homework on… Ignorance is bliss??? I doubt it!
          I applauded Dr. Ian Harrison, and any Vet that will aid and assist, as well as tell the truth about this ugly secret of ours…

        • We wouldn’t be debating which is the better way to kill these beautiful animals; neither sounds very appealing to me, if stupid/greedy people would stop breeding so many. Can’t feed it…don’t breed it!! And as much as I love horse racing , it is a big part of the problem. Sad but true.

        • unfortunately it is not a quick nor painless death…

        • Helen Skufis says:

          For your information … there is NO quick death for a horse at a slaughter plant … they’re kept in stockyards for days … unfed … and usually abused on the way in (no different from what happened here WHICH IS AN UTTER SHAME). Also, at the slaughter house, cause they freak out, they hear the others being slaughtered and they know what’s coming, the people working those places often hit them to keep them going in the right direction … as for the Belgian slaughterhouses … yea those [redacted] offed a bunch of our native mustangs …you can get on Bo Derek’s site to find out all the details of that … and, from a veterinary perspective, racehorses are chockfull of all sorts of drugs … as with cattle (I’m a vegetarian for that very reason mind you) they have to be weaned off all meds at LEAST 30 days before being sent to be slaughtered. That is a federal law. Else all those drugs end up being eaten by the people consuming their meat. Would you like to spend thirty days in a stockyard unfed before being done in after you’ve starved your guts out, then be turned into canned dog food or Hungarian square salami, Get your facts straight before you recommend a slaughter house. THERE IS NO QUICK DEATH IN A SLAUGHTER HOUSE …

        • Friend of Horses says:

          Please contact the HSUS immediately and surrender your horses. (if you actually own any)
          Your attitude alone is proof that you have no idea how horses should be treated.

      • I am guessing it’s the pro slaughter folks with their agenda marking his comment to go into negative territory. ANYONE who thinks horse slaughter is humane has not been there and seen it.

        EPN is a GREAT organization and their information and insight is what led me (once I discovered by accident that horses were being slaughtered) to found Angel Acres nearly eight years ago.

        Jo Deibel
        Angel Acres Horse Haven Rescue

    • As a horse owner and someone who is getting into the veterinary industry, I wish there was still slaughter in the United States. Congress did effectively ban horse slaughter and it is to the detriment of the horses in the U.S. The plants in Mexico and Canada face little to no regulation, which means the treatment of the animals in the plant can go unchecked. The transport over the borders is nearly as bad as the plant itself, with horses packed into double decker cattle trailers and other unsafe situations. Banning slaughter created a bigger problem than it solved. In a misguided effort to make things more humane, it’s only made them worse.

      The horse market is at a standstill and I for one would much rather a horse be cleanly put to death than be allowed to starve in a field. Abolishing slaughter plants in the United States has made it infinitely more difficult to dispose of unwanted horses. Euthanasia is an expensive process. Horses can no longer be buried on most private property, so outside help is needed to dispose of the carcass. Most rendering plants now charge a hefty fee for carcass removal or drop-off since horse parts are not widely used for glue or dog food anymore, and horses put down by injection cannot be used for human consumption. Even state labs, horse hospitals and student teaching programs charge for drop-off in many cases.
      Would it be nice if slaughter plants were no longer needed? Yes, it would. But this is not the case and the majority of the horse world is incredibly unhappy with the slaughter shut-down.

      This is not to say that the slaughter industry should be restored as it once was. It needs regulation and strict standards in place, just like any other slaughterhouse, to ensure that the animal receives a humane death. But it is a necessary part of the horse industry.

      (And “unwanted horse” has always been a term. There have always been and always will be horses that are too mean, too feeble, too poorly put together to be any use or even have a happy life in retirement. It’s a part of the business, and if you don’t understand the business then you have no business trying to regulate it.)

      • Like I said, the horse racing industry is to blame. Slaughter is not the answer. Do you want the horses treated like cattle, by low wage frustrated workers? It’s bad enough cattle are mistreated this way.
        There is a better solution to slaughtering these animals.

      • Watch Dog says:

        Grim, your post is right on target and I couldn’t agree more with your thoughts. Slaughter IS a necessary evil of the horse business that needs to be regulated because too many people cannot afford euthanasia and the disposal of the carcass. In a perfect world, there would be no need for slaughter but the horse industry is so far from perfect. Too many backyard breeders and unwanted horses and irresponsible horse owners. Seeing and hearing of horses starving to death and being mistreated, suffering for who knows how long makes me sick. If only there was a way to make slaughter more humane in the US, instead of the long horrific rides to Mexico and Canada.

  2. Isabelle Jaynes says:

    Thank goodness Sonny was helped in time! My heart breaks for the animals who are treated poorly.

  3. I so wish I was able to have the horse and bring him to health just to enjoy his beauty. Someone will though if he can live through all his illness and injuries. Horses depend on their owners for everything,remember that when you buy that cute little pony for your child. They are not a house pet and reguire a great deal of work and love. They will give back with great loyalty. I am not worried about the vet’s political agenda or whatever I just want to see the end of these tragic moments. Yes I donate and yes I have owned horses most my life and yes I have worked through the snow and ice and heat and wept at the loss of one dying. Now my health will not allow my to have one and be able to give the proper care. Live on Sonny

  4. If I can stop one heart from breaking,
    I shall not live in vain;
    If I can ease one life the aching,
    Or cool one pain,
    Or help one fainting robin
    Unto his nest again,
    I shall not live in vain.

    We are indeed a vain culture.

  5. Fly on the wall says:

    Who pays for this emergency medical care this horse receives?

    • The guy charged should pay and he should be prohibited from owning or coming in contact with any animals.

      Some “horse trainer”.

  6. The answer is not to resume horse slaughter. There is a humane way to get rid of a horse that is not adoptable. It is called Euthanasia. It certainly is not the desired outcome, but i realize there is more horses than demand outside of the racing world. These horses were not raised for food and do their best for their owners. Unfortunately, they all can’t be champions; this doesn’t mean you slaughter them (and there is no way you can call it humane).

    If you can’t afford or unwilling to euthanize a horse, you have no business owning horses. The racing industry should not allow anyone to buy a horse unless they can meet this standard.

  7. Mr Mister says:

    What was the result of the previous charges? Wasn’t there some kind of reduced punishment? Should have hit them harder the first time this was brought to light.

  8. How many horses are left here at this farm? Are they being cared for? Why did this guy not get charged in the earlier incident? Was there any press about it?

    This guy has horses at the racetrack, too.

    • What about the owners of this property? Shouldn’t they be charged?

      • Helen Skufis says:

        Unless the owners of the property were actually in business with the horse’s owner it would be sick to charge them … if the horse was dumped on their land … that’s like saying that the lady that feeds the forty stray cats in her backyard that her uncaring neighbors actually set loose on her property is actually a hoarder and should be charged with animal neglect etc. Before you charge the field’s owner you better establish a link between the horse’s owner and the land owner. If they had some agreement with the owner that they would take care of the horse and then neglected it when the horse owner quit paying, and it can be proven, then yes, absolutely, the landowners should be charged as much as the abandoning owners.

    • From what i understand the first horses found at this farm were not his but belonged to someone else…sounds like this is a dumping ground for unwanted horses. i heard some lady owns this farm.

  9. Why is it that with the horse business, it is considered ok to euthanize a young horse if it gets an injury just because it can no longer make money? How about we recognize there is not tons of money to be made on the track and otherwise. That is reality… there are only a minute portion of people making money in this industry…for everyone else this should be considered a hobby. Go get a job that doesn’t cause you to have to put something down just because it doesn’t turn you a profit.

    I work so I can have horses. It is truely a luxury.

  10. Jo-Claire Corcoran says:

    Quick, painless death at a slaughterhouse….perhaps one should tell that to the 1500 horses starving in a slaughter feedlot in Presidio Texas. A new study by Hanover Univeristy reports that the captive bolt basically gives a horse a bad headache and only stuns them for 30 seconds, thereby causing them to be evisecerated and slaughtered alive and fully consicious. Gee nothing humane about that.

    This Veterinarian is clueless, this was not an owner that could not afford euthanasia this was a person who could care less about a horse that worked hard for him. Perhaps the veterinarian should offer a low cost euthanasia, to people who HAVE fallen on hard economic times. What a community service that would be.

    Perhaps the veterinarian, who took an oath to protect animals and cause no harm, should advise the breeders to stop over breeding. Perhaps the veterinarian should realise we are living in an economy which is depressed.

    If you are going to own a horse, then part of that responsibility is giving that horse a good death, that is what the word euthanasia means….it doesn’t mean being slaughtered alive, being starved in a feedlot, abused at the slaughter plant.

    I wouldn’t call that veternarian out if he was the only one left in the county, I’d pay extra for one to come from farther away.

    • Helen Skufis says:

      You are so right about the captive bolt and about the need for euthanasia by injection only. Also, this country’s laws about animal burial need to be changed. If a person has a large enough property, they should be allowed to bury them if they want to. The whole spiel about illegal burial is what made it so people do this. [redacted] too cheap to pay a vet for euthanasia services.

  11. He should be HUNG!!!! OR STARVED HIMSELF!!!!

  12. concerned says:

    I just hope this poor animal survives. When they said in the article that it looks like the horse “was hit by a truck,” I’d have to agree that is EXACTLY what it looks like! The injuries are compatible with having gotten loose and been hit – it’s amazing the horse is still standing. If someone had been trying to kill the animal on purpose, they could have shot it–this looks as if he had been badly injured and through pure negligence, never received any vet care.

    • Coincidentally, this vet’s office is less than 2 miles from where this abused horse stood in his field.
      How many people have seen this abused horse the last month or so and not called animal control or the sheriff’s department?
      Did he have water during our 100 degree days?
      What in the world tore him up so badly?
      Perhaps a ticked off owner or trainer because he couldn’t “pay his way” at the track?
      And why is he in the very same field were horses died, darn near died, and were horribly abused and neglected less than two years ago?
      People need to be held accountable on this one, and not get suspended sentences, little or no fines, or plead down to simple misdemeanors. This is animal abuse at its worst, and unlike cats and dogs, this poor guy couldn’t just run away.

  13. Ticked off says:

    This is so sickening and upsetting. I do not understand how people can do this. People need to be held accountable for these things. How about our legal systems stepping up to the plate and making these people pay for doing these things instead of just a slap on the wrist!!! I also get sick and tired of every thing being blamed on the racing industry!!!! Do not judge us ALL by the sick individuals that allow this kind of thing to happen. Do not stereotype us and certainly don’t throw the blame un racing because of an individual’s lack of a beating heart. My family is involved in the racing industry and has been for about 15 years. All those that like to Pen and Sort, Eventers, Hunters, Jumpers, Endurance…………..your horses can get injured just as easily as a “racer” can. Your horse can run around the field and snap a leg. Instead of blaming an industry, how about me make a stand and stop this madness!!! We have several horses that have moved on after racing to wonderful careers as Eventers, pleasure riding horses and even have one at a big facility Colorado as a Dressage horse. All loved very much and thriving. It really burns me that people always turn this back on Racing. I understand that not everyone likes racing but don’t blame it for all of the problems with animal cruelty. Blame the guilty individual. My question is, if people so this going on, why didn’t someone intervene sooner, before it go this bad? People when you need help and can’t care for your animals, say so!!! There are plenty of groups out there that will help. Don’t wait until an animal is dying and it’s too late!!! Be responsible. They are like children, if you can’t take care of them, feed them, love them, provide shelter for them, THEN DON’T HAVE THEM!!!!!!!! Who in their right mind could every possibly think “Slaughter” is humane??? Watch some videos and that will change your mind!!! Most disgusting thing I have ever seen!!! Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania……………ALL STATES up your Animal Cruelty laws and punishments!!!! Don’t just fine them and slap their fingers and move on!!!

  14. While this is a **horrid** situation, I just wanted to speak a bit on behalf of race owners, trainers, and breeders. I know a lot of the people at Charles Town, and most of them are excellent horsepeople who work very hard not only to care for their horses but to make sure they have a place to go after they are retired from racing. Many trainers advertise and sell their horses direct to the public, to pleasure and show homes in the larger horse community. Many others work directly with rescues and placement organizations, and still others have connections to show trainers (or have worked in other disciplines and will re-train and market their horses themselves). While a few do throw them away like this pathetic excuse for a human being did, and others will give a horse to a kill dealer instead of giving them a chance, to tar the entire racing industry as one that discards horses like “kleenex” is unfair, based on my experience.

    The vast majority of the trainers I know at Charles Town are completely appalled by this situation, possibly even more than the general public because it’s “one of their own” and tarnishes them all by association. Very unfair for Bouffault to phrase things that way.

  15. “In January 2010, I intervened directly in an abuse case in the same field, where the horse had to be euthanized” Bouffault said. Bouffault described a moving scene where a dying horse lay next to the remnants of a hay bale provided by compassionate neighbors the day before. Bouffault said that the hay bale was quickly eaten by the 15 horses being boarded in the field at the time.

    My question to this comment is why wasn’t this place monitored for subsequent abuse obviously it happened once and everybody knows that a lepoard does not change its spots, we have the thorobred retirement association in Millwood it least there those horses would have had a chance. this person should NEVER have another horse or even be near another horse, we should be kept informed of these people so if we see something we can act and save, before another horse dies a horrbile death, they depend on us to take care of them I hope you would not do this to a relative.

    In defense of the veterinarian, he can only offer if the people call him and ask if his practice would do something like that. We only know if we communicate which seems to be lacking nowadays.

  16. There are credible studies that show the instances of horse abuse and neglect have not risen due to a lack of slaughter. Such statements have been proven time and time again to be nothing more than pure propaganda.

    Slaughter is not “clean” nor “humane”. Such statements shows a complete ignorance of facts.

    The comment that slaughter in the U.S. was, and if brought back will be, better regulated is a fantasy. There is significant proof of that documented by the USDA – the agency that was tasked with oversight of horse slaughter.

    Horse slaughter is a predatory practice that does not provide a service. If the availability of horse slaughter = better market for horses, and slaughter is very much available today, how many horses have to be slaughtered to improve the market? Guess that number is not 140,000, which is about the number of horses slaughtered last year.

    As for this so-called “vet”, not at all surprised he is spewing the AVMA party line. These good ol’ boys are incapable of evolving their thinking and will profess slaughter is humane until the end of time.
    If this and other like-minded “vets” wants to be of service to horses, hold a few free euthanasia clinics or geld stallions at low cost.

    “First do no harm”….indeed.

  17. Every one who has negative comments about Dr Harrison are complete & udder fools. He is the one (not any of you negative commentors) that is saving this horses life… & on his bill. To the person who suggested that the man charged should be held accountable for his vet bills… He couldnt afford to even feed or take care of this animal, I highly doubt he will pay a dime in this horses recovery. I am sure Dr Harrison was fully aware of that fact when he was called to take this horse in. People need to do there homework, words are easily written but the truth of the matter is over 90% of rescues don’t even take new horses in now because they are over full !!! They are numerous articles I have read about horses being starved at rescues because people are no longer have the money to donate to them. And to those that think this is because of the racing industry.. I really laugh at that. People do you really think that the majority of horses that are not taken care of are ex race horses.. I can assure you that is false. I ask… have any of you being to any of your local stock sales? Because I have and there may be one or two tatooed Thoroughbreds but the MAJORITY are sick and starving ponies, Quarter Horses, Paints, Crosses and many of them are aged and in bad health. I try and do my part, the only horses I work with are ex-race horses and healthy horses I can afford to rescue and I kills to have to be selective but I have to set my bounds. I am not sorry to those I offend in saying this but Dr Harrison is absolutely correct in his accessment of the situation!! There needs to be a more viable solution to this problem.

  18. Nancy Lee says:

    This horse looks like he was beaten or dragged down a road. Most of the protruding areas on the right side of his body are scraped open and he has bleeding wounds on his front cannon bones. The wounds are not due to the high cost of hay or the lack of slaughter as a legal option. This horse was fit and racing this year, and is now starved and wounded. How can anyone draw the conclusion, in this case, that horse racing is at fault, or the economy is at fault, or the horse is in bad shape because there’s no place to slaughter him in this country? The lack of clear thinking in this article, and about horse issues in general, is stunning. This horse has been physically abused, starved, and left with infected wounds, and one or more humans needs to go to jail for it.

      Thanks for saying it.

      And as to declaring the trainer or owner has no money — well, then if he needs to sell his other horses to pay the bill, so be it. Both trainer and owner should NEVER be allowed to have horses again!

  19. horseymom says:

    There is life after racing. We lost our beloved thoroughbred this past spring at the age of 33. After her racing career ended she was retrained for showing and won several major awards before being sold to the riding school where we found her. It took several years to convince the owner of the school to sell her to us, and we spent many years enjoying her as a trail/show/ pleasure horse and friend. We spent many dollars that we could barely afford to help her conquer a recurring condition so she could live a happy life. When it became obvious that she was suffering from something she couldn’t beat, we said our goodbyes and called the vet. She passed away surrounded by the children she had taught over the years and went peacefully to sleep. I wish all horses could have this end, surrounded by love and tears. Slaughter is not the answer, and those who can no longer care for their horses should either euthanize or give them to a rescue or if they have the temperment, a therapeutic organization where they can help those who have physical or mental disabilities. I applaud the person who has taken in unfortunate horses in her own field. If I had a field of my own, I would do the same.

  20. patracing says:

    The idea that 95% of race horses end up unwanted and / or neglected and abused is a great exageration. Many, many horsemen go to great efforts and expense to see that their retired racehorses are retrained as riding horses for show and pleasure. If they are not suitable for retraining there are retirement farms all around the country to house many of these horses.

    The individual is at fault here and should be punished to the full extent of the law. NOT the racing industry.

    Additionally, I know the closing of domestic slaughter houses for horses has created this situation. There are unwanted and unsuitable horses of all breeds that have no market to go to now. Instead of inforcing the rules and laws of slaughter houses the government shortsightedly closed them down. This has led to a rapid rise, as Dr. Harrison said, in abuse by neglect casses around the country. Don’t you love our government.

    • Helen Skufis says:

      [redacted] We need to revise the laws … instate a program where euthanasia is affordable and let people who have the land bury them on their property if they wish to do so. Slaughterhouse shipped horses spend 30 days starving in the stockyard before they are done cause federal law mandates that animals that were given medications, drugs need to be weaned off these drugs if their meat is going to be used for human and/or animal consumption. GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT. Also, captive bolts only stun them. they are literally eviscerated and feel every bit of it. I sure do hope you haven’t packed off any of your equine friends to Mexico or Canada for slaughter. THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK

  21. Horse Slaughter is for the irresponsible.

    See the true facts and documentation of how cruel it was when it was here in the USA!

  22. livein22611 says:

    Can we get the name of the guy who owns this horse? Would like to smack him if I ever see him and know who”s horses to avoid at Charles Town.

    CDN Editor: The owner is mentioned in the story.

  23. Slaughter a horse to save it from abuse, cruelty, neglect, starvation…??? What! This “excuses” such actions by sociopaths who get their kicks out of purposefully abusing an animal. Severe prosecution and jail time is what will save horses from such vile actions by the sick and evil. Horse slaughter will never be “humane.” It is pure agonizing hell from auction house to miles & miles of crammed trailer to the hell house to be again brutally treated by workers before the vivisection. Lord have mercy.

  24. Im not only discussed by this but embrassed to even be part off the race industry….. These horses run there hearts Out for trainer and owners… To say slaughter would be the best thing.. Please go ride in the back off one off those, it will change your mind. If that doesnt then watch the poor horses in the pens, still not satisfied, watch there death… How can a vet want this… Your suppose to save the horses not promote killing them. For a trainer or owner to let this neglect go on, shame on u… Punish them… My final thought, u some how bought the horse and paid for him until u decide that he is no use for u so u think leaving him to starve and die is ok… Why cant u pay for him to go into a adoption program…. Race tracks should be more demanding on trainers and owners about penelties off any such horse being treated this bad…. Then no other horse ever be treated like this…. Just remember owners, trainers and whoever else, this is the sport off kings, not abuse or neglect.. It should be a law that any track found with neglect during or after racing, they be shut down if any horse be found like this…. That would be the best way..

  25. Folks – I know Dr. Harrison – he has taken care of my horse. He and one of his colleague, Dr. Casey are first rate. He is a wonderful sport horse vet. Please be mindful of the fact that he is willing to take his time to take care of this horse(he most likely will not be paid anything for his services), and also to report his findings (evidence) so that the abuser/owner will be handled in the court system (hopefully a fine and jail time). Dr. Harrison’s love for horses is obvious when you watch him interact with his patients. There are not many vets that are willing to speak out and take the time to do this. To state that Dr. Harrisons “knows nothing about the horse industry” is insane.

  26. I am thoroughly disgusted of course at the treatment, or lackthereof, that this horse has received at the hands of his owner. However I am APPALLED that this abusive neglect is only a misdemeanor!! How is this not a felony case?! The horse has open and seeping wounds, disease, lameness, and is starving. This should be a very serious charge but instead it’s a joke. $2500 or up to a year in jail? Up to a year could mean a month or two. Is this justice for this animal and appropriate punishment for this man? Not to me.

    • You think that’s bad?

      The lady running the fraudulent “rescue” up in Martinsburg, who had over 50 horses seized, all underweight (with about ten REALLY serious, brink-of-death horses) and somewhere between 6-8 dead animals on the property (the remains had become scattered. nice), got a slap on the wrist. Something like time served plus a $1000 fine, or something.

      Hardly spent any time in jail, too. Heck, the prosecutor apparently didn’t even look at the evidence before working out that deal. Disgusting, the lack of punishment.

  27. Can someone explain to me why a horse can not be buried on private property. What happen to going “out to pasture”? Are the only options for disposing of a horse either slaughter or rendering?

    • Depending on where you live, there are often regulations about disposal of livestock. Where I live, you cannot legally bury horses on your own property due to such regulations. Some people do it anyway, but only if they own their own equipment or have a friend who can keep their mouth shut.

      Rendering is not a bad option – it is unpalatable but does put the remains to some use, and the folks I’ve met who do pickups for the rendering company are professional and sympathetic. The only drawback is the cost, really.

      There are other options too – cremation (quite expensive), and pet cemetaries (some do take horses). Some landfills will also accept remains.

    • In the Know says:

      A dead horse tells no tales…
      Don’t know if it’s against the law in Clarke/Frederick or not, but who’s watching??
      Seems to me to be a good source of (eventual) compost, as long as it’s not close to a water source.

  28. shadowsam says:

    how many times have we heard the story: my friend went to a sale and took his trailer along, didn’t really want to buy anything. just took the trailer along. came back out and there’s 2 skinny horses in there. why doesnt his friend tell the story. show us photos. file a complaint. either everyone in the USA knows this person that this happened to, or a lot of people (pro slaughter folks) have a lot of friends that this happens to. And they never catch the guy? must be a lot of sales that are not too busy, for this to happen this many times in so many different states and no one ever ever sees it happen. gotta wonder about that one. I have friends who have told me this same story. So now I guess I could say, “my friend has this friend that took his trailer to a sale…”
    see, that’s how it works.
    and also, in this story this guy says he’s seen this happening a lot in the past year, and that legislation was changed last year. hmmmmmmmmm, I think his time frame is warped. happened back in 2006-2007. Plenty of time for out of control breeders to “cull” their herd, knowing their beloved dumpsite is no longer quite as accessible and profitable as it once was.
    I dont know, here in South Dakota we have killer buyers and feedlot/slaughter holding facility. If someone really wants to get their horses to slaughter its not too hard to do. And still we have some of the worst cases of neglect, starvation, etc. Its called laziness and stupidity. and law enforcement that treats it like a secret instead of a crime.

  29. Annie Oakley says:

    Horses sent to slaughter do not meet a dignified death. Why do some people try to sugar-coat this? People bring these horses into the world for there own use, and when they don’t meet the “required’ criteria, they are simply abandoned. This is true with all disciplines of horse sports. There are so many good people out there trying to help these horse, and providing for a future for them, but there are many more people that have no conscious.
    Personally, I don’t know how these people (like the one in Clark County) can sleep at night. Someday, his demons will catch up with him…what goes around comes around. May he rest in hell and suffer as he has caused suffering!

  30. It irks me how the PETA bunch will turn a bad, awful, unconcionable situation with a horse into an anti-racing and anti-slaughter diatribe. Last stats when US slaughter was up and running showed the 4%, yeah 4% of slaughtered equines were tattooed TBs. QH/stock-type horses led the numbers with drafts and STBs high on the list. Grade horses filled it out. TBs were at the bottom. I can garuantee you that the 95% number quoted by the lady in the article was happily pulled out of her keester. TBs get the blame and sensationalism because every idiot who doesn’t know which end of a horse eats has probably seen the KY Derby at least once.

    The AHC (American Horse Council) recently published a study showing that abuse and neglect cases have gone up significantly in the past 3 years. While horses can still be exported for slaughter, now the slaughter houses are farther away and there are quarantine rules which add to the expense of getting the horses there, so the prices at US auctions have bottomed out.

    And, people, the horses do NOT “go 30 days without food at Texas holding facilities”. Really, when you are selling an animal for meat it needs to get to the slaughterhouse with meat on it’s bones. DUH. They have to feed them or they wouldn’t even cover the gas money to get them there. Not to mention that too many days without food or water and the horses would die before they got shipped. Horses colic without water very, very quickly.

  31. good old clarke county says:

    If this is the farm I think it is , the one on the corner of Clifton and 340 …..

    This is not the 2nd , 3rd, or even the 4th time that animals have been found on this farm in less than favorable conditions.

    There have been numerous incidents of neglected, injured, malnourished, and abused animals on this farm over the years. The property owners have been charged in the past. Tell me why they are still allowed to have animals here? The property owners show no remorse and do not care what condition the animals housed on this property are in . They seemingly care only for the profit they will gain in allowing the property to be rented out as a dumping ground for these poor voiceless animals, this is evident by the past incidents that have occurred and continue to occur. . Anyone who lives near there can attest to this . I know for a fact the people who live nearby have complained probably hundreds of times regarding this place and the conditions. It is sickening to me the lack of caring Clarke County’s officials have when it comes to the animals. I really wish the residents would demand the county officials stop turning a blind eye to the abuse that goes on in this county everyday.