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GAO Report on Horse Welfare Criticizes Federal Policy Which Harms Horses and Increases Costs to Local Governments – Action Needed


Posted Date: 
June 24, 2011
Contact: 
Erik Johnston, Associate Legislative Director, NACo

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on June 22, which found that since Congress took action in 2007 to end horse processing in the U.S., there has been a rise in equine neglect and abuse incidents.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on June 22, which found that since Congress took action in 2007 to end horse processing in the U.S., there has been a rise in equine neglect and abuse incidents.  In addition, horses are still being sold for slaughter and shipped to Mexico and Canada, and in many cases endure inhumane conditions in transport and processing.  The report also noted that counties, including sheriffs, generally have been the entities most affected by the increase in abandoned and neglected horses, as they generally are left with investigating potential cases affecting horse welfare and collecting unwanted horses.

NACo and its partners successfully lobbied Congress to order GAO to study this issue in 2010.  NACo policy calls for the humane treatment of horses in the ownership, raising, transporting, and processing that should be carried out under the supervision of USDA.  NACo also supports the property rights of horse owners and opposes the ban on domestic horse slaughter, which leads to equine neglect and increasing costs for local governments.  NACo provided GAO with state specific examples to demonstrate the increasing costs to local governments and was specifically cited in the study.  The study noted that, “the National Association of Counties reported that the increasing abandonment problem is not exclusive to Montana or the West but is happening nationwide.”

As of a result of its findings, the GAO recommended that Congress either reinstate funding for USDA food safety inspections at horse processing plants, or ban horse slaughter in the U.S. altogether.  NACo supports the reinstatement of funding for USDA food safety inspections at horse processing plants, which could revive domestic processing.  Legislation addressing those possibilities has already been introduced. In May, the U.S. House of Representatives amended the Agricultural Appropriations Act of 2012, H.R. 2112, to continue the defunding of USDA horse processing plant inspections. On June 9, Senators Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced S. 1176, the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act of 2011. NACo opposes this bill that would amend the Horse Protection Act to prohibit the sale or transport of horses or equine parts in interstate or foreign commerce with the intent of processing them for human consumption. 

The GAO report is available at http://www.gao.gov/Products/GAO-11-228.  Please call your Senator and ask them to oppose S. 1176.

Erik Johnston | 202-942-4230 | ejohnston@naco.org