Animals’ Angels has a track record of disturbing investigations at the monthly Billings Horse Auction in Billings, MT—the largest horse sale in the state. The sale is managed by Jann Parker, a long-time proponent of the horse slaughter industry. During our previous visits, we have documented over-crowded pens, untreated injuries, rampant abuses, and the heartbreaking and painful death of an Angus bull. Animals’ Angels has contacted law enforcement on two occasions when animals were dumped in manure piles and left to suffer, and the auction attracted media attention in 2018 for suspected horse abuse. Unfortunately, local law enforcement chose to not file charges in any of these cases, and the auction was not held accountable for the cruel behavior of its management and staff.
For the January investigation, Animals’ Angels teamed up with our European partner organization again, the Tierschutzbund Zürich. When we arrived at the Billings Horse Auction at 7:00 am on January 26th, it was a chilly 30 degrees Fahrenheit. According to the auction catalog, 118 horses were present at the sale, which included approximately 100 “loose horses” (horses destined for slaughter) in outdoor pen areas. Our investigators noted that, while hay and water were present in the pens, the ground was very muddy and covered in manure. Fortunately, no emaciated or obviously sick horses were observed in the pens.
The loose horse sale began at 8:00 am. Handling in the ring was rough, and the sale was conducted quickly with 100 horses sold in 60 minutes. When several horses expressed fear entering the ring, the handler repeatedly hit them over the head with a flag. Kill buyers, as usual, were lined up in the front row of the stands.
Our investigators noted that most of the bidding was done by Anderson Trucking from Laurel, MT, likely on behalf of Bouvry Exports. Texas horse trader Blake Thompson was also present and purchased a horse with a bleeding right front leg. All horses presented for auction that day were of an average weight of 1,100 pounds and sale prices ranged from $500 to $800.
After the sale, loose horses were moved to pens in the back of the facilities and divided by buyer. Several were left overnight in frigid temperatures, with snow covering the ground and no shelter from the elements.
Our investigators returned the next morning to check on the animals’ conditions. At 9:20 am, the loose horses were moved to the loading ramp. Whitford Trucking from Cut Bank, MT—a long-time transporter for Bouvry Exports—backed up to the ramp and loaded a large number of horses into a single-deck trailer. Our team followed the truck to the Bouvry feedlot in Shelby, MT, through a strong snowstorm and dangerous driving conditions. The horses were unloaded immediately, and the truck left the facility.
Animals’ Angels will continue to monitor this auction and report all suspected crimes to law enforcement.