By Steven Long,
Photo Courtesy Ray Field
HOUSTON, (Horseback) – The highest ranking federal veterinarian with jurisdiction over the controversial C-4 holding pens at Presidio, Texas told Horseback Online Thursday that he has never held a Coggins certificate from horses at the facility in his hands. Moreover, he says he was under orders to ignore the place.
“My boss in Austin told me not to go anywhere near those horses,” said Dr. William Brown of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Inspection Service (APHIS).
The pens are a way station where horses are held awaiting transport across the border to a Mexican slaughter facility.
“They removed the funds to pay me,” he said. “They are paying a private veterinarian.”
Brown said the private vet provides him with a certificate that he routinely signs, preferring to inspect incoming horses and cattle from Mexico, rather than outgoing horses destined for slaughter across the border. Late last year, more than 60 horses were seized from the pens in various stages of starvation, dehydration, and illness. Several died, and a dumping ground of horse carcasses was discovered in a flash flood prone creek that runs behind the pens and empties into the Rio Grande River.
Despite the risk of spreading infectious disease, the pen owner was chided by the state agency and given a slap on the wrist by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
Horse owners are required to have Coggins certificates indicating the animal has passed a test showing it is free of equine infectious anemia, (EIA).
Late last year Horseback learned from Texas Animal Health Commission inspector Richard Wagner the same Coggins documents were being used again and again for different horses going to slaughter and held at the pens. The state official said nothing at his level was being done because his agency’s budget had been cut by the Texas Legislature and simply didn’t have the manpower to take action.
The Coggins certificate is a federal document, and it is a federal offense to falsify the form. Violations could result in a fine of $10,000 and imprisonment of 5 years or both.
Brown told Horseback, “I know of a guy who works for the state who told me they were surprised when he actually wanted to go out and look at those horses, they don’t want you to look at those horses,” he said.
Horseback attempted to contact Browns superior, Dr. Jim Amend in Austin, as well as Amend’s boss, Dr. Kevin Varner of the USDA. Neither returned our call.