Investigation Updates


March 5, 2012

Animals' Angels
 PO Box 1056 Westminster, MD 21158

Kelsey LeFever may get probation as first time offender

The Lefever case has quietly vanished from the public eye, the spectacle and negative light that would have further exposed the predatory nature of horse slaughter, cut short. Yet, overall, animal advocates have gained not lost.


Horses on trailer 1Kelsey Lefever is the Pennsylvania horse trainer who faces felony prosecution for sending former race horses to slaughter. Taken from their former owners with the promise to find them a new home, some of them were sold to known kill buyer Bruce Rotz at the New Holland Auction to be butchered in Canada. According to affidavits, Lefever told a friend that she "killed every one of those .... horses, over 120 of them."


Bruce Rotz TrailerAnimals' Angels recognized the suspect situation and collected evidence at the auction that day, triggering the Lefever investigation. Finding the four thoroughbreds in Rotz's trailer, Animals' Angels Executive Director Sonja Meadows documented their lip tattoos and condition.


"I pretty well knew what was very likely going on when I saw these thoroughbreds," Meadows said. "We have witnessed these parking lot sales before." Meadows provided Pennsylvania State Police with complete documentation from that day as well as owner/shipper paperwork confirming that Bruce Rotz ships several thousand horses a year to slaughter.


injuryAfter an extensive investigation, Lefever was charged with one count of theft by deception and four counts of deceptive business practices. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for February 21. Just minutes before the hearing, Lefever waived her right to the hearing and applied to enter a first time offender program. As part of the deal, Lefever would receive probation but be barred for life from obtaining a PA thoroughbred racing license. A formal arraignment is scheduled for April 19.


Some feel that by allowing her to enter the first time offender program, Lefever, who reportedly was fired from her job as a horse trainer and riding instructor after the news of her trial broke in January, will not fully receive what she deserves.


Horses on trailer 3But the case has brought to light an important issue that was previously unknown to the general public. Many more are now aware of this very seamy side to the horse racing industry and they do not like it - news media outlets were by their own admission swamped with calls and comments of outrage.


As well, the Lefever case strikes hard at horse slaughter itself, and the cruel deception and betrayal that is part and parcel to the whole horse slaughter mess.

California horse trader continues to raise suspicion of involvement in horse slaughter trade

Don Gatz Horses
Thin horse on premises
Don Gatz of Turlock, CA, long suspected of being a kill buyer, does not appear to be slowing down despite his November 2011 plea to felony cruelty charges.


Originally charged with 14 felony counts and 12 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty after 15 horses found on his leased property had to be euthanized, Gatz entered a no contest plea to three felony charges in November.


According to the sheriff's office, the horses suffered from malnutrition, disease and improper care by the owner. The District Attorney's office filed against Gatz for depriving the horses of "necessary sustenance, drink or shelter," and subjecting the horses "to needless suffering."

Gatz was sentenced to 60 days with an electronic monitoring device, three years probation, 480 hours of community service and fined $10,000. He was also required to pay $4,000 in restitution to Mariposa County.

Dead horse 1But it doesn't appear to have slowed him down. Last month when AA arrived to conduct a new investigation at Gatz's ranch, they found approximately 80 horses on the premises, some very young, several that were thin, and two horses lay dead.


The dead horses, a Belgian and a young Appaloosa, appeared to have been dead for days. The Belgian was very bloated. Animals' Angels contacted local authorities and will monitor the situation persistently.


Dead horse 2In California horse slaughter and related commerce are illegal. Many in the state complain the law is not enforced and that kill buyers buy and sell horses for slaughter unabated. AA has information that seems to support suspicions regarding Gatz's role as a kill buyer and recently documented Gatz's truck at the Southwest Livestock Auction in Los Lunas, NM, owned by kill buyer Dennis Chavez.


Gatz is not the only CA horse trader connected to the New Mexico kill buyer: In 2011, Animals' Angels also documented David Misner selling horses to Chavez. Additional documents obtained from USDA and the New Mexico Livestock Board show that these sales have been going on for years.


Truck at Southwest AuctionHowever, the wording of the CA law makes obtaining a conviction difficult since the prosecution would have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that seller such as Gatz or Misner knew or should have known that Chavez's intent when he bought those horses was to take them to slaughter.  AA is continuing to gather evidence.


Westminster Auction owner agrees to improvements
Westminster Auction
Auction worker kicking calf

In January AA investigators visited the weekly auction in Carroll County, MD and found some conditions were bad for the animals. Handling of very young baby calves was very rough with workers kicking them, pulling them by the tail and poking them with sticks. Water did not appear to be available in the pens, one pen of horned and unhorned goats was very overcrowded and some were fighting, electric prods were used on the faces of some animals, some were trampled in a narrow chute.


 AA was able to speak with the auction owner about conditions for the animals. During a conference call, the owner was receptive and agreed to make several changes. The young worker observed kicking the calves behind the scales will be "talked to" and moved to another, less demanding area. The owner also stated that he will make it clear to all of the workers that kicking calves and pulling tails is unacceptable.


Westminster Auction Calf Handling
Auction worker pulling calf by the tail

Additionally, all employees will be advised that using the electric prod in the face area is unacceptable and that handling in the chute should be calm.


He told AA that he has created a "distressed cow" pen where possible downer cows get a chance to rest and that non ambulatory cows without a chance of recovery are euthanized.


It is a step in the right direction and we appreciate the auction owner's apparent interest in improving the welfare of animals at his auction. Conditions investigators found were not ideal but certainly the auction owner's willingness to respond proactively is. AA will continue to monitor the handling at the auction and has shared all the information with Carroll County's Humane Society.



In this Issue 
Kelsey LeFever Case Update 
Don Gatz continues to raise suspicion
Westminster auction owner agrees to improvements
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Sonja at horse auction  
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About us

Animals' Angels works to improve conditions for farm animals. We closely cooperate with law enforcement and government agencies to fight animal cruelty. Our investigators are out in the field nationwide, visiting auctions, feedlots and slaughter plants.



Animals' Angels Inc.

PO Box 1056

Westminster, MD 21158



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