Animals’ Angels investigators visited the Waverly horse auction for the first time. The biannual sale is the largest horse sale in the country and has an international reputation. The sale started on 10/4/18 with Percherons, Belgians, Clydesdales and Haflingers and continued on 10/5/18 with Draft Crossbreds, Mules and Light Horses & Ponies. The sale attracts thousands of buyers from across the country and while most of the horses sell for a lot of money, the auction also has a so-called “market pen” for kill buyer prospects. According to their website, “no horses with open sores, unable to walk, crippled, blind, or under 700lbs” are accepted. AA investigators attended the sale to see how the conditions are for these horses and if the statement made on their website is accurate.
Walking through the multiple barns and the extensive pen area, investigators noted that all the higher priced horses were kept inside. Most of the them were tied up individually and had access to food and water. Many were still being groomed by their sellers. The horses entered the ring individually, with several fetching prices of $7,000 or more.
Outside the barn, at the “market pens”, the conditions were quite different. Several groups of horses were standing in mud/manure covered pens without shelter from the rain. Some were quite thin and had overgrown hooves. Others were coughing and had obvious eye infections. One draft horse had a bad left eye with a large amount of puss dripping from the eye. One horse was spotted with a fresh, bleeding fetlock injury. The horses had access to hay and water, but the hay seemed to be of much lower quality than the hay provided to the horses inside the barns.
Also not uncommon – the market pen horses were kept tucked away in the back and the side of the premises, where it was unlikely for regular buyers to see them. They also sold last, which ensured that most of the private buyers had already left the sale. Public documents confirm that the sale is frequented by known kill buyers such as Keith Tongen from Brownton, MN.
Animals’ Angels will continue to monitor this sale and urge auction management to improve the conditions for the “market pen” horses.