Animals’ Angels investigators returned to the monthly horse sale in Billings, MT. The two day sale starts with the riding horse sale on Saturday and then continues with the loose horse sale on Sunday.
Several kill buyers were in attendance. Iowa kill buyer, Scott Kurtenbach, who delivers horses to the Canadian Premium Meats plant in Lacombe, AB, as well as Colorado horse trader Jason Fabrizius and a buyer for Bouvry Exports were bidding on the approx. 650 horses present at the sale.
Investigators walked the vast pen area and noted multiple horses with fresh cuts, leg injuries, eye infections and ribs showing. The majority of the pens were extremely filthy and covered in approx. 15 inches of manure.
An emaciated red roan gelding was found in one of pens in the very back flooded with urine, which he had to share with a Black Angus heifer. Investigators also spotted a miniature horse caught in one of the heavy pen gates, unable to free himself. No one from the auction addressed the situation until investigators urged workers to help the struggling animal.
The loose horse sale started at 9:00am Sunday morning. Pen riders moved the horses in large groups from the back pens to the area behind the auction ring. The horses were very agitated and a lot of fighting & kicking was observed.
The kill buyers, buying under numbers 463, 578 and 398, picked up the majority of the horses sold. Each horse passed through the auction ring in just approximately 20 seconds. The handling of the horses in the chute leading to the auction ring was rough. Investigators saw multiple horses being hit over their heads with full force or gates being slammed on them.
A slow moving mini was roped by one of the pen riders and dragged out of the auction ring. The buyer for Bouvry purchased a paint with a profusely bleeding front leg.
The auctioneer continuously joked with the kill buyers, calling the horses the “cheapest protein you can get”. The loose horse sale ended at 11:13, all kill buyers bought multiple loads of horses.
The emaciated gelding remained in the back pen, he did not go through the sale. At 11:45am, Sheridan Trucking arrived for the horses bought by Kurtenbach.
Investigators noted that by now slaughter tags had been applied to many of the horses close to the loading ramp. At 1:12pm, WJM livestock from Great Falls, MT arrived and loaded some of the horses bought for Bouvry. All told, 22 horses were put into three compartments, one of them was observed limping as it walked into the trailer. He finished loading at 1:38pm and left the premises shortly thereafter.
At 5:08pm, the blue Peterbilt of kill buyer Fabrizius arrived at the auction and backed up to the loading ramp. The driver rushed the horses into the boarded up, single deck trailer and finished loading at 5:25pm. The truck left the premises at 5:34pm.
The Billings Auction is one of the main slaughter sales in the country, and conditions as well as treatment of the horses remain extremely poor. In addition to reporting all violations observed, Animals’ Angels will continue to monitor this sale.