The business of “rescuing” horses may have hit a speed bump now that the FBI investigation of Another Chance 4 Horses (AC4H) has been all over the news. Let me say up front that there are plenty of good organizations out there who are trying to keep horses going to slaughter and helping horses find new homes or new careers. I’m not talking about them. This is about the “faux” rescues who are in the lucrative business opportunities of Internet fund raising to “bail” out horses that would likely never go to slaughter, and who often sell the same horse more than once, and who rack up huge fees for quarantine, transport, vet care and other “services” that are often not provided. AC4H is just one of many. Some of the other ones who have been questioned for their business practices were Columbia Basin Equine Rescue (I think this one has closed) and Crossed Sabers/Second Wind Adoption.
So, what’s happening with the “faux” rescues?
Rescues that have questionable business practices share some of the same tactics. Here are some of the problems that have been reported with them.
Fundraising several times for the same horse or selling them more than once
Some people complain that the Internet-based, bail-them-out rescues unduly mark up the cost of the horses. Browsing the Internet you’ll see that the average price to buy a horse to prevent them from “getting on the truck” is about $600. These are horses that the broker paid $50 to $100 dollars for at auction. But that’s not the problem. That’s just business and if people want to pay more for a horse than it’s worth? That’s just horse trading.
The problem occurs when people send money to bail the horse and it still goes to slaughter. Or it is sold twice. Or it disappears after being purchased/bailed. There are plenty of examples of horses being bailed more than once . . . of funds being raised well in excess of the stated price . . . and then the adopter being told the horse had died, been injured or was otherwise no longer available for adoption. Here’s an example of what happened to one person:
I picked the horse i wanted, got approved, and agreed on a day to pick her up. After driving all the way to the location i was greeted by a man i had no prior contact with. We went into a barn where the horses were standing in filth, then he brought me the wrong horse! I showed him a picture of the mare i had gotten, and he said she was not there. After texting Christy, Phil, and talking to the man who was at the location(who even tho he said he didnt know much about what these people did, he knew enough of their names), they had no good answer as to what could have happened to her. So after i waisted my entire day driving, over $150 in fuel, wear and tear on my truck and trailer all they had to say was, “i dont know where she could have went, sorry”
Fundraising for horses they don’t own
Then of course there are the folks who never even bother to deal with real horses. This “rescue” is a pure profit operation!
We received a phone call letting us know that one of our riding horses is for sale on a rescue website in Texas. The owner of the “rescue” and website posts pictures of other people’s horses along with the horse’s actual information including price. She doesn’t even bother to change their registered names. She takes deposits on horses that she doesn’t have or own.
Our horse is for sale on our own website, she lifted his pictures and information to put on her site. The horse’s name is Chips Ahoy Leroy and he has never been outside southern Indiana. The lady who called to inform us had the same thing happen to her and one of her horses.
Fundraising for horses that are not candidates for slaughter
Another ploy is to feature horses that are at no risk for going to slaughter but who have great fundraising appeal. Slaughter houses typically do not want ponies (especially minis), lame horses, sick horses or grays (because of melanomas). And yet the rescue pages are full of minis who are “at risk” and available for adoption for $400+ (AC4H has several on its broker pages now). Or breeds that attract a lot of attention from breed organizations.
Here’s a statement from someone familiar with Brian Moore’s auction purchases:
I personally attend the auction where Brian buys his horses. He buys under multiple numbers. He buys the horses he is actually sending directly for slaughter, and then buys horses Christy has told him are in demand through her program (i.e. standardbreds, saddlebreds, morgans, minis, ponies). The two groups are purchased under different numbers. He will buy up to 100+ horses at an auction each week…however how many new ones do you see on their site?
They also used to work with Jesse Austin (a broker, no longer a kill buyer). I would attend auctions with him, watch him “pick out” the horses he knew AC4H could sell, and then trailer them over to their “pick up barn” jump on the horses and ride them around for pics and video. Jesse is not, and has not been a kill buyer for years, his horses were never at any risk of going to slaughter, however that is what they lead everyone to believe.
You can look at the shipping information from Brian Moore’s slaughter business in 2010 here. These documents were obtained using the Freedom of Information Act. I went through about 50 pages and saw no ponies and no grays listed.
Not providing care
Many rescues provide a quarantine period for the horses that are purchased. This is, in theory, a good idea as horses that are run through auctions can be exposed to many contagious diseases. The problem arises when the facilities are not equipped for care. I personally have seen a horse that lost considerable weight from the time he was shown on one of these “rescue” websites and when he arrived.
What I will say is that the horse was in good weight in his photos and videos. When he arrived in quarantine (a week later?) he was practically emaciated. Every rib showing, hind end sunken in, hips sticking out, and terrified to be caught. I am not sure what happened to him between the pics being taken and him leaving but he was almost not the same horse.
Other people report that the horses they pick up are visibly ill.
I got a pony from there. The coggins was not legitimate because it was not marked like the horse. It was left blank. The health certificate was wrong, the horse had strangles, as did most every horse there, and I was told she had a cold. She was also very obviously pregnant, against slaughter rules.
A friend of mine “adopted” a horse from AC4H. It crossed state lines (into NY) with NO health certificate and had to have a vet on scene immediately. The horse had explosive diarrhea, and this “great mover” has retracted tendons in both of her hind legs leaving her VERY lame. As of right now she is positive for jaundice and anemic and they are currently running multiple tests to figure out whatever else is wrong with the poor animal. MEANWHILE, other horses on the property (including my own) are in 30 day quarantine since this horse is in that severe of a condition. AFTER running these tests, the mare will most likely be euthanized
The Bottom Line?
If you want to support a rescue or adopt a horse in need, do your research first. The Internet is a wonderful resource. Certainly, there is some risk when adopting a horse that has gone through an auction and there will always be people who are not pleased with the experience, but if you see worrying trends in the reviews, you should probably not donate to those organizations or adopt from them. Check the financials of the organizations too. In 2010, AC4H had reported income of more than $865,000; they claim that $775,000 went to the horses’ expenses. The math, to me, looks questionable, given the atrocious condition of some of the horses.
If you want to save a horse from slaughter, consider buying directly from an auction or from Craig’s List — but keep in mind that for any horse purchased it’s important to have a quarantine strategy.
And don’t avoid all rescue organizations just because there are a few bad apples. There are a lot of horses out there that still need homes and many people who legitimately want to help them. Just don’t be swayed by internet hysteria.
As for AC4H, there’s no recent news about the ongoing investigation. They are still listing horses for sale in their broker program. Ratemyhorsepro.com reports that the FBI would like to speak to victims
Rate My Horse Pro confirmed with authorities that a fraud investigation is underway into the organization’s business practices. Currently, the feds say they are looking into issues of horses that were misrepresented, where either a different horse was received than expected or the animal was altered in some way.FBI Special Agent Charlene Trux says investigators also want to speak with those who may have purchased a horse, but never received one.Also of interest are situations where services, like a coggins or health certificate, were paid for, but were never supplied by AC4H. If you had issues with the group, and utilized Paypal, fax, or mail – your story may also be of interest.The FBI is asking only those with first hand information to call Special Agent Charlene Trux at 610-433-6488 and leave a message. If you know someone who you believe may be a victim, investigators ask that you encourage them to call.