Horses: The Silent Sufferers of Drug Smuggling
Published : Wednesday, 02 Feb 2011, 9:47 PM MST
DOUGLAS - Horseback -- its how many drug smugglers move hundreds of pounds of their product across the Mexican border into Arizona.
Horses are used to carry drugs across the border, then abandoned and left to die. We should warn you, the video may upset some viewers.
"Carly was a horse that was abandoned on the Indian reservation," says Brad Cowan, a former livestock officer.
She was deathly thin. Nobody was caring for her or feeding her. She was scarred from poor-fitting equipment.
And she was pregnant.
An increasing number of horses are being abandoned in the desert after being used to smuggle drugs across the border.
"They're going to put 200 to 300 pounds on there, I'm going to say at least. They pack them hard. They pack them heavy."
Cowan says at one time, the state Agriculture Department was catching 20 to 40 abandoned horses a month.
"Some of the sores, some of the injuries to the horses we've seen, that have been encountered are pretty horrendous… They'd be some that were basically in their last steps," says Cowan. "There have darn sure been that have been found that have some big, open gashes, wounds on them. The backs have particularly taken a beating from poor fitting equipment."
He shared pictures. Emaciated horses with sores and backbones showing.
"It's becoming an increasing problem. It's been going on for years now but as the economy changes, so does the drug trade and it's increasing quite a bit," says Soleil Dolce, who works at Arizona Equine Rescue Organization. Her group is helping the state rehabilitate horses.
"Quite often they can be left in wide open spaces with no water for long periods of time which is the real issue. They get abandoned the minute they carry the cargo across," she says.
"Typically the horses come in extremely underweight, poor coat quality, lots of rub sores from carrying the frames that they create for the horses."
Rescuing horses can cost thousands of dollars. Rehab can take years. And some horses are so bad off, they must be put down.
"You know it's a real tragedy to see how animals are being used for human profit when you think of the extreme profits being made in the drug world," she says.
"When they get to the other side, they are literally discarded, wandering around without food or water which is mentally exhausting. So by the time you get an animal, they have literally shut down to the point where they don't want to live anymore because they don't think they're going to live."