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Martinez Administration, Animal Advocates Reject Horse Slaughter

PHOTO: The horse, "Stretch," at auction. Photo credit: Debbie Coburn.
PHOTO: The horse, "Stretch," at auction. Photo credit: Debbie Coburn.

August 15, 2012

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Horses in New Mexico are caught between two very different points of view.

Gov. Susana Martinez and her administration are joined by animal-rights advocates in opposing horse slaughter in the state. However, the New Mexico Horse Council has conducted a poll of its members that indicates some support for the practice.

Lisa Jennings, executive director of Animal Protection New Mexico, says the council distorted the poll questions.

"By asking their members do they support humane horse slaughter or no? The USDA reports about slaughter demonstrate, through photos and undercover video that organizations have captured, that it's anything but humane."

Jennings says New Mexico's Horse Council is out of step with similar groups in other states. New Mexico has an Equine Protection Fund, with programs modeled after Kentucky Horse Council programs, but Jennings says homeless horses need a safety net of services, with humane short- and long-term solutions.

Debbie Coburn, CEO and founding director of Four Corners Equine Rescue, a safety-net organization for homeless horses in Aztec, N.M., pulled 32 horses from the Southwest Livestock Auction slaughter pen last year. She says one horse named "Stretch" got a new lease on life.

"Stretch had a terrible infection. The skin off his backbone was peeled all the way down to the flesh. Eleven fractures in the vertebrae in his withers. It's taken us a year to get Stretch back in good health, and he has been adopted."

Coburn calls this issue of unwanted horses "a people-caused problem," but one that is manageable. She says between 6,500 and 9,000 horses are affected.

"I firmly believe that with the $759 million per year that the horse industry generates, that we can find what little bit of money will be needed to help the few horses that would go to slaughter."

State Agriculture Secretary Jeff Witte held a meeting in early July to talk about creating what he refers to as an infrastructure for dealing with homeless horses.

"Right now, you've got horse facilities that are not equitably distributed across the state. So, we're looking at different opportunities around New Mexico where you may be able to go with a horse."

The work groups will also consider what other states are doing to help homeless horses, and the problem of abandonment on Native American reservations. Witte plans another meeting in late August.

Renee Blake/Beth Blakeman, Public News Service - NM