By Steven Long
Photo Courtesy Ray Field
HOUSTON, (Horseback) – A federal veterinarian charged with overseeing the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service animal inspections in Presidio, Texas told Horseback Online Thursday he was tired of getting calls from citizens irate about the abuse of horses brought to the C-4 slaughter holding pens.
“I’ve had these middle aged women calling me and complaining about what’s going on here and I’m tired of it,” he said. “I don’t have anything to do with those horses.”
Dr. William Brown said 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.
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 TAHC 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.
However, TAHC routinely inspects stables around the state for strict inspections of Coggins documents.
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.
“My boss in Austin told me not to go anywhere near those horses,” a clearly irate Brown said.
The pens are a way station where horses are held awaiting transport across the border to a Mexican slaughter facility.
“They can call my boss in Austin if they want to complain,” he said.
Asked by Horseback who his boss is, Brown readily gave the name of Dr. Jim Amend of APHIS.
“They can just get him on the phone if they want to complain,” he said. Almost certainly, irate horse lovers will do just that.
But getting Amend on the phone is not so easy. Horseback called not only Amend, but also his superior, Neither have returned our calls more than 24 hours after the initial contact.
Brown says he doesn’t do inspections on the slaughter bound horses because the feds aren’t funding him to do the inspections.
“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 personally 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 C-4 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 of the C-4 pens 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).
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.