Charges against Kelsey Lefever bring deceptive “rescue” practices out into the open

Kelsey Lefever has been accused of deceptive business practices and theft by deception involving an alleged horse adoption for slaughter scam.
24 year old Kelsey Lefever is accused of deceptive business practices and theft by deception involving an alleged horse adoption for slaughter scam.

It’s a pretty good business model, if you think about it. People give you horses for free. Sometimes they give you money or food as a gesture of good will. In turn, you take the horses to the auctions and sell them directly to the kill buyer for about $300 each. Your expenses are limited and when you’ve sold 120 or so horses in this way, you’ve racked up a handy profit.

According to charges filed against Kelsey Lefever last week, that’s pretty much what she was doing. Now, there’s nothing illegal about selling horses at auction — or even directly to a kill buyer. The problem is that Lefever represented herself as a trainer who specialized in rehabbing and rehoming OTTBs. She went as far as to promise trainer Kevin Patterson that his horse, Beau Jaques, would never go to slaughter. Patterson cared for his horse. He’d recently spent $1,000 on veterinary bills so the horse could be placed in a non racing home. He  gave Lefever $200 and 10 bags of grain to help support the horse — with an offer to provide more help if she needed it.

In return, according to the charges, Lefever took Beau Jaques and three other horses and put them directly on the trailer of Bruce Rotz, a contracted “kill buyer” for slaughter plant

Beau Jaques was given to Kelsey Lefever who promised to find him a non racing home.
Beau Jaques was given to Kelsey Lefever who promised to find him a non racing home. Instead, he went to slaughter.

Viande Richelieu in Canada. The deception was discovered when Sonja Wilhelmina Meadows, the director of Animal’s Angels, a non-profit animal rescue organization, checked for lip tattoos on the four horses and copied down two of them. After Beau Jacques was identified, Patterson was alerted. But by then, it was too late. Beau Jacques and the other horses on the trailer had already been slaughtered.

It was this knowledge that caused Patterson to contact the police — which brought the whole nasty business into the open. Lefever, who is currently free on bail,  stands accused of five counts – one of deceptive business practices and four counts of theft by deception over the sale of four horses, including Beau Jacques. Three of the counts are felonies. According to statements taken by one of Lefever’s associates, she is reputed to have sent at least 120 horses to Rotz.

Rather than repeat the sordid details (and there are many), here is a link to the probable cause affidavit that was published by the Paulick Report.

Sadly this is not an isolated incident. Legitimate rescues have warned owners for a long time to beware when trying to place horses they can no longer care for. Lefever played on her youth, good looks and her familiarity with racing trainers. But what she’s accused of doing has happened all over the country.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is

I should know how convincing these dealers can be as one of them tried to con someone I know. I wrote about it here but in summary, a woman wanted to place her pony, which has some health and aggression problems. She was referred by a “friend” to a man named John (no last name or address) who offered to take the pony for $1 and give her an excellent home as a companion. Coincidentally he wanted to pick her up right before the auctions in Agawam that are frequented by kill buyers. I’m not sure I ever convinced this woman of the fate likely awaiting her “beloved” pony, but I did manage to take her myself and place her in a legitimate forever home.

Advice from CANTER Mid-Atlantic

There’s some excellent advice posted on Facebook by CANTER Mid-Atlantic. Here’s a link to the page but for those of you not on FB, here is an excerpt:

Remember that for every horse you give away, no matter how pretty the girl who shows up is, no matter how sweet they seem, no matter if they have kids in tow, no matter if they say they are a grandmother looking for a horse for their grandchild–NO MATTER WHAT, you MUST check references and you must be prepared to listen to your gut and just say no if you feel uneasy.  You are better off putting an animal down humanely before trusting that it will land on it’s feet with someone who you do not trust.  Checking references means asking people for their vet or practice name, and obtaining the phone number yourself after checking the validity of the identity of the person who wants to give your horse a home.  It means calling and speaking to the vet and asking questions like “how long has X been a client? How many horses does X have? How would you rate X’s fencing? Would you give her a horse of yours?”.  You may get answers that require you to read between the lines, but if you’ve existed with any success long enough to have horses, you certainly have a “gut instinct”.  Follow it! Your horse’s life may depend on it.

We have heard every vile story in the book over the past 15 years.

We have had women who borrow disabled children from neighbors to obtain “therapy horses”, only to sell them to New Holland or straight to slaughter.

We have had countless people show up asking for “4H horses”.  (I, for one, have never met a 4H’er looking for a horse)

We’ve heard the “camp horse” angle.

We’ve heard the sick daughter angle and her dying wish is a horse of her own.

We’ve heard the “we’re really broke but will give him a great home!” angle.

We’ve just heard it all, and sometimes it’s hard to remember that not everybody has.  Please tell any person you know at the track, any person you know with horses, that these people are out there, and they are out there in droves.  They WANT TO TAKE YOUR HORSES AND KILL THEM FOR A PROFIT.  Remember that.  Kelsey’s head has been cut off, but three more will spring up in her place, and they will have t-shirts and coffee mugs, and brochures to convince you that their dimpled smile would NEVER let anything bad happen to your horses.  They are liars and they are laughing every time they take a horse that you help load on their trailer so they can deliver it straight to it’s very cruel death.

Lefever is due back in court on February 6th. Let’s hope the horses get some justice.

25 thoughts on “Charges against Kelsey Lefever bring deceptive “rescue” practices out into the open

      1. Sadly, you are correct. Nothing did happen to her. She got probation. I checked yesterday and found she is still selling horses on

        But, keeping her name and story in front of people does help. It helps create awareness about the underhanded practices that are sending horses to slaughter. It means that maybe a few more people will think before giving their horses away.

        Fore Kelly LeFever, it means that anytime someone searches on her name they will know what she did.

      2. I so agree Liz, awareness is key, the more people that know how deviant the horse slaughter industry is, along with those who participate in it, the better our chances of derailing the whole ugly process.

  1. I couldn’t agree more with the advice given here about rescues, wish I had seen & read this before last Oct.2011

    1. I hope you didn’t get suckered in by one. I was really shocked by how quickly “John” persuaded this woman that his offer was legit.

  2. wow thanks for sharing this. sooo sad! I just adopted an OTTB from mid-atlantic…I keep track of each of the horses that I have had..retired or donated but still keep track…will never sell my small pony as they seem to end up in bad places after their show careers end..awful!

  3. This article would be a better service if you identify where the woman is located or what agency charged her.

  4. This article would be a better service if you published actually where she lives or what agency charged her. As a journalist, I am always leery when facts are not included.

    1. Hi Patricia,

      I absolutely agree that facts are key. That’s why I put a link to the police report in the article. You can read it here. The story of Kelsey Lefever is now several years old, but I think its legacy is not so much what SHE did, but that people like her can abuse the “system” and exploit even those trainers who are trying to do right by their horses. As a volunteer for CANTER, I know of other situations where horses ended up in bad situations, not always through the fault of their trainers, who often thought the horses were placed in good, non-racing homes. The problem is, when you get a horse for free, anything you make by selling it is pure profit.

  5. Well, a couple of my kids wanted to do 4-H and we went looking for 2 horses…Rescued a really good barrel racer( still have her she is now 18) and a walking horse for dressage and still have him….the kids are too old for 4-H but those horses are their babies, the barrel horse is now being ridden by my daughter and her 18 month old………Now you have “met” someone that was looking for a 4-H horse 🙂

  6. Liz,

    Thank you for posting this… it is once again making the rounds over social media and a much needed reminder. I am sick over the kill buyers and yet understand the need. Worse is the thoughts of these poor animals being shoved on trailers and transported to Mexico or Canada for hours on end where we can no longer control the process. I rescued a horse recently through a new rescue and paid $2000 for the boy… worth every penny – as I believe in this new start up rescue and upped my offer by $500 so she could get a decent start. And she has… the benefit of social media. When the vet records were confused with another horse, she offered to refund vaccination/dental fees. That’s a class act. I refused and told her those funds can be used for another… I think sometimes you just might need a happy ending story to recharge your batteries. Hope I helped.


    Carrie Ferrer
    Chamberlain Dressage in Springtown, TX

    1. Carrie, we are trying desperately to derail the import of American horses for slaughter, as we diligently attempt to close the remaining slaughter facilities herein. In my opinion there is No need ever for slaughter or the kill buyers place in the chain of horror. Our dollars and our efforts would be better served in lobbying to regulate ongoing breeding, and to hold owners accountable for every horse put on the ground. To me there is no alignment of choice between slaughter and starvation, neither have a place in our world. There are alternate ways to deliver the death sentence to an animal that don’t involve horrific fear and “sinful” torture. It is people like you, Carrie, who make a true difference in the lives of animals, and if we had many more of you the problem “could” hardly exist. I thank you for that and am proud to have the opportunity to know and learn from you.

      1. It is not the breeders who are to blame in many instances. It is the several owners down the road after the horse has so many miles on him that the last owner usually doesn’t care and passes the horse off to an auction house or an infamous shyster like the woman on this conversation.

        By the way, if the person above is intent on keeping horses out of the pipeline, keep working on funds and legislation to keep them from being EXPORTED into Canada and Mexico.

  7. I believe that if you have a horse that is not saleable for a good sum (at least WELL above kill buyer money) you should humanely put it down or retire it. If you are not going to send money to provide for their care, visit or get frequent photographs with season specific background, you have condemned it to a slaughter line (or worse – like slow thirst, starvation or abandonment) death.

    1. That is so true! I wish that people would think more about the consequences of “dumping” older or problem horses. I’ve seen it happen with people I know. One woman, who taught her horse to become food aggressive, then decided the horse “had” to go and offered to sell this lovely pony for $1 to a man named “John”. When I asked her what she thought would happen to the pony, she told me John could find her a retirement home where she would live in a green field and be happy. Really. This woman refused to believe me when I told her John was a dealer and the pony was going to auction. Her husband, who was a lawyer, screamed at me over the phone and told me his wife “loved” the pony and would never let anything bad happen to her. Right. I gave them a dollar and found the pony a real home, but people’s ability to deceive themselves is legendary.

  8. There are many good rescues out there as well. This person is horrible and hope she rots in a special place in hell for her deceitful ways and sending horses to a horrible way to die.We need to get the Safe Act past and HR1942 so horses cannot be shipped for slaughter. Close the borders and kill buyers won’t have horses to sell for slaughter. People contact your politicians if you agree this is not right. Horse meat have 100’s of chemicals in it from drugs given to horses such as “bute” which is not for human consumption. It is TOXIC.

  9. I have told my husband and my sister. If I die and you cannot let my horses live out their lives at our farm you must call the vet and have them euthanized here on the farm. Call the gravedigger from the local cemetery and have them buried here on the farm. And please, say a prayer that I will meet them again in heaven.

  10. I’ve worked for an equine vet for over thirty years and have unfortunately seen more than my share of “rescues”. Believe it or not the horses which end up at the killers are sometimes the lucky ones. We’ve had numerous instances where a person advertises themselves as a liscensed rescue only to use it as a front for pinhooking or – worse yet – horses with serious injuries ( which usually occur AFTER they reach the farm ) are paraded as rescues needing funds for treatment and become long- suffering sources of cash for the farm owner. Once someone is identified as an abuser it usually takes about six months to a year to issue the required warnings and inspections and gather enough evidence to shut them down. When the pressure gets to be too much then the suspect almost always moves a county or two away and starts the same thing again. Check check check those references. Verify the certifications and charity status. Call the local animal warden and ask whether they have had any complaints. There are some legitimate , wonderful rescues out there which will pass these tests and more with flying colors. Do your homework and find them.

  11. No horse that ever ends up at the killers could ever be deemed a lucky one! The choice between the kill buyer, or someone like who you have described, is no choice at all, they are both horrific and equally so. You are so right, check, check those references, due diligence and ongoing follow up.

  12. I don’t believe in giving away a horse if one cannot afford to pay for the horse they can’t afford to look after a horse properly I have leased out a old brood mare to a friend and if she doesn’t want her anymore she will come home.

  13. Don’t know what to say other than “GET A ROPE” . Sad that such a magnificent creatures are being led to slaughter , some may be on their last leg Witch is sad but a fact of life. What I do know is a pasture looks much better with an old horse or two on it than a empty pasture. Just the feeling you get when you look out and see them is worth its weight in gold .

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