The Presidio slaughter horse export pens in Texas have a long, sordid history of violating environmental laws, illegal carcass dumping, and animal cruelty. Animals' Angels started to investigate the pens in 2010. At the same time, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality started investigations.
Between October 15, 2010 and August 11, 2011, three investigations were initiated. Violations included the confirmation of unlawful disposal of horse carcasses, failing to maintain the required mortality management records, and operating without a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations permit. C4's permit TXG920505 expired July 20, 2009 -- see link.
Horse carcass disposed in dry creek bed
TCEQ inspectors noted in their findings, "The cause of death of the horses remains unknown and should be further investigated by the appropriate agency having jurisdiction in this matter."
The next Texas agency to get involved was the Texas Animal Health Commission. Their August 2011 investigation found that several horses in the pens had invalid Coggins tests. While falsifying Coggins test results is a criminal offense and carries a fine of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment, both they and the US Department of Agriculture opted not to take any action. In fact, TAHC Inspector Richard Wagner stated they wouldn't pursue the case because they didn't have the budget or the manpower. Dr. William Brown (federal veterinarian who supervised the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in Presidio) publicly stated that he was under orders from his superior, Dr. Jim Amend, to "ignore the place." Please read his comments here.
Then on August 15, 2011, formal complaints were filed by an Animals' Angels investigator directly to the Presidio County Sheriff's Department against the C4 pens. Quoting both TX Penal Codes and TX Health and Safety Codes, the complaint included photographic evidence of non-ambulatory horses being denied humane euthanasia, horses in desperate need of veterinary care, decaying horses in the pens with live horses, a complete lack of shelter, and improper disposal/burial of carcasses in the river bed behind the pens.
|Horse left to die inside C4 pens|
A notarized request was made for animal cruelty charges to be filed, for dying horses to be humanely euthanized, for vet care to be provided to sick and injured horses and for shelter to be provided. Nothing happened.
Not satisfied with the lack of enforcement from TCEQ, TAHC, USDA, APHIS and local authorities, Animals' Angels has continued to investigate and accumulate evidence against the Presidio export pens. In February 2012, we requested a status update from the Presidio County Sheriff's Office and TCEQ. TCEQ admitted to having opened three investigations, but stated information was not public due to being under "Management Review." Presidio County's response didn't include anything that would indicate a cruelty investigation was ever initiated.
Animals' Angels has conducted six full investigations at the Presidio export pens since August of 2011. We have not witnessed a single positive change regarding the attitude or care shown towards slaughter-bound horses. Abuse, neglect, and indifference are such a common theme that they have become pattern. The landfill still receives an average of 40 dead horses a month and the horses in the pens don't have enough food, water or shelter. They are consistently crammed violently into trailers which are not suitable for transportation and are still left parked in the full sun for hours.
Below are findings from our most recent investigations.
August 17-24, 2013
Investigators found the new Brito pens had been finished and were ready for use. Conditions at the Brito pens were documented and had deteriorated substantially. The handling observed by investigators was rough, unprofessional, and cruel. The body conditions observed of the horses had also worsened, and emaciated animals, eye infections, open/bleeding wounds and injuries were plainly seen.
Injured horse at Ruben Brito pens
While documenting, investigators also found several horse skulls and a partial horse leg. One horse inside the C4 pens was observed with such a horrific leg injury that its bone was exposed, covered in blood and pus. Two additional horses were observed with open and bleeding wounds. Investigators immediately called the Presidio County Police Department.
Horse at C4 pens with horrific leg injury
When the police arrived, they ordered euthanasia of the horse with the bone exposed. The other horses were provided first aid by pen personnel. Investigators urged Deputy Chief Joel Nunez to file cruelty charges against the pen owners, but he refused since the pen workers had "complied immediately with all their requests." Investigators have repeatedly witnessed a personal and friendly relationship between pen owners and Presidio County law enforcement. We can't help but wonder if this relationship is what allows the pens to operate above the law.
October 29-November 2, 2013
Before arriving at the pens, investigators observed fully loaded transport trucks waiting to cross the border. Investigators looked inside the trailers to observe the horses' condition, and instantly noticed two downed horses inside one trailer being trampled by the horses around them. Investigators ran into the border office to notify them that horses were bleeding and struggling for life and needed prompt veterinary care.
|Downer horse inside trailer|
After quickly inspecting the trailer, border officials blocked incoming and outgoing traffic, while instructing the driver to turn around and immediately return to the pens. Investigators were relieved that they were able to prevent a horrifying death for the wounded horses with the full cooperation of Border Patrol.
Truck turning around at border crossing
Investigators followed the truck back to the Brito pens. The pen worker present at the pens initially refused to unload the horses because the truck was sealed but then agreed after talking to AA investigators and seeing the bleeding horses down inside.
Horses being unloaded after AA's intervention
Soon after, pen operator Ruben Brito arrived, immediately threatening the investigators. In the meantime, the horses were unloaded, but only one of the downers was able to get up and off the trailer. Many horses were observed with fresh, bleeding injuries. The second downed horse however, remained on the trailer floor as Brito told the driver to move the trailer -- while the horse was still inside -- to the back of the property. A Presidio County police officer arrived, and appeared very friendly with Brito. Brito told him that the investigators were "trespassing" and that he wanted charges pressed. Without regard to the investigators' evidence or their account of the situation, the police officer filed charges against the investigators and ordered them to leave.
|Sonja Meadows urging worker to unload horses|
It is extremely ironic that we have three years of documented cruelty complaints to the Presidio County Sheriff's Office against Brito and the C4 pens wherein nothing was done - yet the first time a bogus complaint is made against us, charges were filed. Our organization will not fall prey to such tactics of intimidation, collusion or conspiracy. As of the time of this newsletter, Animals' Angels has secured the services of a Texas attorney to fight this warped injustice and has reported all incidents to the USDA. We firmly believe that both Ruben Brito and the Presidio County Sheriff's Department should face consequences for their misconduct.
Animals' Angels will continue to increase the pressure on pen operators and local law enforcement through international exposure of their questionable practices in our upcoming EU campaign.