Investigators arrived at the monthly horse sale in Billings, MT at 7:00am. The auction had announced that they would be starting to sell loose horses at 8:00am. There were approx. 300 loose horses in the pen area in the back and workers on horseback were getting ready to move the animals closer to the auction ring. Several of the animals were in poor condition, with ribs showing, overgrown hooves and eye infections. Some of the pens were extremely muddy and covered in manure. In several of them the urine was pooling, offering the animals very little dry space to stand or rest. While hay was available in most pens, the large loose horse pens in the back did not have any.
All the regular kill buyers were in attendance: Fabrizius Livestock from Colorado, Anderson Trucking from Montana (buyer for Bouvry Exports) and a buyer from Fouke, AR who is suspected to be buying for the Stanley Brothers. Horse trader Jacob Thompson (JT Livestock LLC) from Texas was also at the sale, selling some higher priced riding horses.
The semi of Yellowstone Horse Rentals was also parked in the lot, however, it remained unclear if they were there to buy or sell horses. The sale started on time at 8:00am. The pens leading up to the auction ring were packed with agitated horses, kicking and biting each other. Prices for loose horses were high and most sold for above meat price. Nevertheless, that left enough horses for all the kill buyers to fill their trailers. Overall that day, 564 horses were sold with the most expensive animal selling for $65,000.
Investigators watched the kill buyers gather their loads: Fabrizius Livestock and the buyer from Arkansas (name withheld for investigative purposes) both had brought trucks without a DOT number or name displayed – a violation of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations which will be reported by Animals’ Angels. The Arkansas trailer was packed full and several horses struggled when they entered the trailer. The individuals loading the horses angrily hit them over the head with moving paddles and pushed the pen gates on them to get the frightened animals to enter the trailer.
The investigation showed that the loose horse sale in Billings is still among the largest sales in the country and still attracts a regular group of kill buyers. AA will continue to monitor the auction.