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Undercover Investigation Reveals Little Oversight At California Horse Auctions

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(Mayela Lopez/AFP/Getty Images)

Elizabeth Cook, KPIX 5 Anchor Elizabeth Cook
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SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – Americans don’t eat horsemeat, but we do export horses for slaughter. Most end up on dining tables in Europe and China. While California is one of the few states that bans the exports, some activists have said the ban isn’t working.

We recently visited a Northern California Auction. Horses were on the block and selling cheaply; Prices were as low as $50 to $100, even former racehorses.

A horse known as Rino-U was bought by Tawney Preisner, who runs a shelter for horses.

“He was injured, he has a fractured knee, and he was no longer useful to the industry, so he was dumped,” Preisner said.

Just months before, the two-year-old thoroughbred was racing at Golden Gate Fields.

“It’s quite typical for someone to spend $150,000 on a horse, race it a few times, and if its not performing, just make it disappear,” said Preisner.

Preisner’s group, Horse Plus Humane Society, has rescued over 2,500 horses in the past decade – many of the animals were race horses that she found dumped at auctions.

“If they are lucky, they make it to an actual person that wants to help them and retrain them, but most times they go straight on to slaughter,” she said.

Related Coverage:
Race Tracks, Rescue Groups Take Action Against Horsemeat Trade

Livestock auctions are where horse traders known as “killer buyers” go to snap up horses for pennies on the dollar.

“It’s highly likely that kill buyers are going to scoop up horses that show up at auction,” said Cheryl Jacobson, who heads up equine protection for the Humane Society of the United States.

Jacobson said the auction process is known as the slaughter pipeline. From auction houses, the horses are then trucked to feedlots, and from there to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico.

“They are packed in there. They have long transportation times without food or water or rest,” Jacobson said.

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