Mid America Stockyards, owned by the Varner family, has been in business for over 40 years. It is one of Oklahoma’s larger auctions and holds a weekly cattle sale every Saturday as well as a bi-weekly horse sale. The auction is a member of the Livestock Marketing Association and the Oklahoma Beef Council. The auction is a strong promoter of the revival of horse slaughter in the United States, family member & Oklahoma State Representative Skye McNiel has sponsored legislation to allow the slaughter of horses in Oklahoma. HB1999 has been signed into law by Governor Mary Fallin.
Investigators arrived at the auction at 4:00pm. Mid America Stockyards is a large, modern facility with restaurant and extensive in- and outdoor pen area. The indoor pen area next to the auction ring was very hot, no fans were running and there was no water for the horses. Pens were very small and crowded with too many horses in each pen, which resulted in kicking and biting.
The outside pens were large and sheltered; all of them were equipped with large water troughs and several of them had access to hay. Investigators counted approx. 85 horses in these pens as well as a few dairy cows. One pen held Haflinger mares with their foals among the other horses, another pen held a very agitated stallion. The mares were observed fighting and kicking, trying to protect their foals. A Mustang with BLM freeze brand and several severely emaciated horses were also present. A chestnut mare with white socks appeared to be in pain and was extremely thin. The freezemark of the Mustang indicated that he was born 2003 in Teterville Long Term Holding in Kansas and adopted out straight from there.
A large stock trailer pulled up to the loading ramp and a group of paint horses was unloaded. One of them was struggling to walk and was severely limping. Auction workers moved it to the pen area next to the auction ring, where it was put into a crowded pen with other horses.
The auction started at 6:33pm. Horses were moved across a scale right before the auction ring and sold by the head and by the pound. The majority of horses sold to kill buyers with three buyers bidding with the numbers 14, 83 and 89 dividing up most of the horses among them. Buyers for Jeff Smith, Heritage Livestock and George Baker were present, the other buyers could not be identified. Horses were in the auction ring on average approx. 12-16 seconds. Several mules and donkeys were sold, some of them (sold by the pound) were purchased for as little as $9. All together, 241 horses from 72 sellers were sold in 2 hours. The Mustang sold to buyer number 83 for $124. She weighed 775 lbs. Investigators noted that the handling was satisfactory, the workers used flags to move the horses. After the loose horse sale ended, some tack was sold and then the riding horse sale started.
After the auction was over, only the semi of Heritage Livestock loaded and left. The horses were moved into large outdoor pens in the back of the premises and given hay & water. All smaller buyers loaded and left. When investigators returned the next morning, a George Baker single deck trailer was backed up to loading ramp. Shortly thereafter, the truck loaded and left the premises. Investigators followed the truck which drove straight to George Baker’s feedlot in Stroud, OK and unloaded. When investigators returned to auction, the trucks of Jeff Smith & Dennis Chinn as well as a 2nd George Baker were at the loading ramps. Jeff Smith and Dennis Chinn both left and headed north, likely to Kansas. The 2nd Baker truck also unloaded his horses at the Stroud feedlot. There was no more activity after that.