Animals’ Angels investigators once again attended this weekly horse auction operated by former kill buyer Trent Ward. It was a very hot day with temperatures close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Despite the excruciating heat, most of the pens did not have any water available for the approx. 110 horses present that day. Entering the pen area, investigators first saw a large pen with ponies and minis as well as multiple pens with riding horses in good condition. Further to the back of the pen area, investigators spotted a very thin, older Arabian mare that was blind in both eyes (auction tag #779). She had been put in the same pen with her friend, an Arabian gelding who was blind in one eye. Both horses had severely neglected, cracked hooves. Also in that area were several more emaciated horses as well as a thin mare with her colt. While investigators were watching, a severely limping sorrel stallion with an extremely overgrown, curled left front hoof was unloaded and put in one of the back pens. He was struggling to make it to the pen. Investigators followed the white Ford pick up truck who had unloaded the animal to document the license plate for owner identification. Back at the pen area, kill buyer Mike McBarron had just arrived to check the horses available for purchase that day.
The horse sale started with riding horses at 8:00pm. McBarron bought several $500+ horses for his broker program, bidding under buyer number 2. Among those purchased were a 2004 Thoroughbred Mare for $700, several horses confiscated by USDA at the Mexican border and the blind Arabian mare with her friend. Only a few of the horses he purchased were bought “straight”, i.e. for slaughter, another clear indication where McBarron makes most of his money now.
Mid sale, a severely limping registered Paint horse was moved through the ring. The owner declared that he was “absolutely fixable”, but that he just did not have any room to turn him out. Auctioneer Ward sarcastically blasted a “how sad” over the loud speaker, but no one wanted to buy the animal. Ward himself then purchased the horse (“put him on the company”) for $400.
For the majority of the sale McBarron was basically without competition from other horse traders/kill buyers, however, this changed when the final round of loose horses was moved through the ring. One of the oldest kill buyers in the area arrived (name withheld for investigative purposes), which seemed to be a surprise to everybody, especially McBarron. He stood up from his seat and entered the auction ring to face his opponent directly while bidding. However, the old man bidding under buyer number 1 purchased most of the horses going through the sale. Among the ones purchased by the old man was the severely limping sorrel stallion (2001-registered) for a price of $260. The majority of horses bought by him were in the $300 range, with auctioneer Ward announcing that they were going “straight away” – shipping straight to slaughter. The sale ended at 10:05pm.
Animals’ Angels will continue to monitor this kill buyer sale and has reported the observed neglect and the offenders to the proper authorities.