Rescuing a horse from a killpen/broker program is not for everyone. You have to deal with whatever you have purchased directly from the killbuyer, and there is NO guarantee and no money back if you are not satisfied.
Killbuyers usually have hundreds of horses on their lot but only select a few to post for resale. If you are on Facebook there are several killpen pages from all around the country. You can visit the page and see details of horses that are in danger of shipping to slaughter.
Killbuyers often provide a description or a video description of the horse. I have found they are fairly honest in their description. For the most part, if a horse is unsound or unruly that horse will ship directly to slaughter and not be posted to resale.
If the horse is broke to ride, there will be a very brief video riding demonstration. They will provide an estimate on the horse’s age, and describe any obvious flaws or injuries. That’s all you get. You can’t call and ask the killbuyers for more information. They don’t care too much about customer service or sales. If a horse doesn’t sell, that horse ships to slaughter so either way they get paid.
Killbuyers buy a group of horses from many different auctions each week, plus collect any ‘Free on Craigslist’ horses. They may unload 50-100 horses and select only 10 to post on their Facebook page for resale. The killbuyer sets the price that he thinks he can get someone to pay.
Killbuyers are business people. They recognize the true value of a horse is only worth what someone is willing to pay. They also realize the longer they wait for a higher price the lower their profits will be because they must continue to feed and care for the horses they have in ‘inventory.’
Some horses are posted on the killbuyer’s page for several weeks. These horses are not necessarily slaughter-bound, however if the horse doesn’t sell for the higher price after a period of time, they are moved into the killpen and sent to slaughter.
- ERN has worked with the following killpens to save horses and donkeys:
- Bastrop Louisiana Ship Pen
- Ark-La Ship Pen/Stanley Brothers in Hamburg, AK
- Kaufman Killpen in Kaufman County, Texas
- Bowie Killpen in Bowie, Texas
- End of the Line Placement in Harmony, Pennsylvania
- Auction Horses NW in Sunnydale, WA
- Moore’s Rescue Lebanon, PA
This list is in numerical order based on the quality of care provided to the horses, the likelihood of shipping, and whether horses are sent to Mexico or Canada. If you are a horse at the Bastrop, Louisiana Ship Pen, you will receive minimal care, there is a very low likelihood you will be rescued, and you will be sent to Mexico (which is far less humane than Canada). In contrast, if you are at the Moore’s lot in PA, you will receive better care, your likelihood of rescue is slightly higher (less horses), and you will may get lucky and ship to Canada instead of Mexico.
When a horse ships, where does it go?
The difference between Mexican and Canadian slaughter is that Mexico takes everything – old, sick, thin, and lame. There is very little oversight and many instances of poor conditions for horses awaiting slaughter. Canada only accepts young, healthy horses. Canada inspects horse’s paperwork and physical condition.
The care in Canada is better (acceptable given the nature of the facility). Many killbuyers deliver horses to both Canada and Mexico. They make the decision on which horses go where depending on their visible inspection at the auction or in their own killpens. If a horse is unhealthy, underweight, aged, or unsound, they will go to Mexico.
Each one of the above killpens accepts PayPal. It is simple – you PayPal the purchase price for the horse, and a note of the Tag number in the memo, and the horse is yours.
NOW WHAT? All you get is a coggins test, a horse and several days to go pick that horse up. However, people rescuing horses may be hundreds of miles away and must rely on others to pick up, quarantine and coordinate shipping.
Fortunately, every killpen has a list of people who provide pick up, quarantine and shipping for a fee. If you call the killpen or look on their “about” section of their Facebook page, usually you will find a list of service providers.
When rescuing a horse I budget for the following:
- Price (Bail) of the horse
- $50 pickup fee (average)
- $105 veterinary care and paperwork (Health Certificate)
- $10-$18 per day for quarantine (average)
- 50 cents to $1 per mile for transport (although some offer discounts for rescues). Remember to specify a “clean load” versus “dirty load.” The difference is that a clean load contains healthy horses after quarantine. A dirty load does not.
The only true variable is the veterinary cost. If you pull a sick horse from the killpen, you can blow your budget on veterinary care quickly. You may want to set an upper limit on what you will spend to save a life, and commit that once that limited reached you will let nature take its course (easier said than done however)…
ERN has now rescued hundreds of horses from killbuyers. In most cases, the horses have exceeded expectations. The only area that has been problematic is that killbuyers define “Broke to Ride” differently. Most define ‘Broke to Ride’ as having the basics of steering and stopping. ‘Broke to Ride’ for a killbuyer means you can climb onboard without getting bucked off. In the end, with training, ERN estimates that 90% of the horses have come together nicely. The remaining 10% turned out to be only serviceably sound or too unruly to be riding horses. These horses are much more difficult to place in permanent homes.
ERN has never regretted saving a horse, donkey or mule from slaughter although there has been ‘unintended consequences and unexpected experiences’, it’s all be positive.
The odds of 90% ‘Exceeds Expectations’, versus 10% ‘Hard to Place’ are good enough to continue rescuing from killpens. If those odds are daunting, perhaps you should adopt a horse from an existing rescue. Your risks will be substantially lower. By rescuing locally, you may open a stall up for the rescue organization to rescue another horse from slaughter.