SPANISH FORK — Victims of one of the states largest cases of animal -abuse found new homes Wednesday night when over 40 horses were sold at an auction.
Multiple volunteers and horse rescue organizations had confirmed that "kill buyers" would be attending Wednesday's public sale of the neglected horses owned by mother and son Rory and Trudy Childs of Smokey Mountain Ranch. Fourth District Judge Fred Howard ordered that the horses be sold to pay a lien to the Utah County Sheriff's Office, which cared for the horses after they were discovered near starvation in mid-February of this year.
Buyers could purchase the horses, transport them to Canada or Mexico, and resell them to slaughterhouses for processing. While regulations have recently changed on the matter of domestic horse slaughter, there are currently no U.S. slaughterhouses open for business.
Many bidders were fighting beyond their means, taking money out of savings, to help save the horses from slaughter.
"My part in all of this is to buy one and love it and make sure it doesn't go to slaughter," said Jo Crawford, a bidder at the auction.
Nine purebred quarter horse foals and 31 mares and geldings ranging in age and experience were auctioned. "They're engaging, good personalities, they're spirited," said Sgt. Spencer Cannon from the Utah County Sheriff's Office. "A lot different than they were several months ago."
Bidders worked together, outbidding what they say were suspected kill buyers. According to americanhorsemeat.com, buyers for slaughterhouses can't afford to spend more than around 20-25 cents per pound and still make a profit. With fully grown horses ranging between 800-1,000 pounds, to outbid the middle men, bidders needed to pay $160-$250 per horse.
After an hour, the auction ended, some having spent thousands of dollars to save as many horses as they could. Sales reached up to $2,700. Barbara Phillips ended up buying eight.
"I just wanted to help the ones that were still alive," Phillips said.
The new owners do not get any papers detailing each horse's past, but they know their history. Many of the bid winners say they'll now get the horses healthy and train them then find them good owners.