The following abridged investigative report may be the best way of describing what we found in Presidio, TX and what took us there. It is important to remember that the situation at the export pens in Presidio is what is found everywhere along the horse slaughter pipeline.
In Shippensburg, PA or Presidio, TX; Butler, KY or Fairhaven, MI; Shelby, MT or Los Lunas, NM; Shipshewana, IN or Sugarcreek, OH-- the evidence is stark and clear: Horse slaughter and transport on U.S. soil or not, means suffering and cruelty for horses long before they stand in the slaughter kill box.
Important Background to Investigation
Photos provided to Animals' Angels and documentation obtained by Public Information Request show horses dying in C4 export pens and carcasses dumped in a dry creek bed. Taken in August of 2011, with approximately 350 horses on the property, photos depict several horses down, struggling and dying. Many were extremely emaciated and/or had open, untreated wounds.
Signed eye witness statements report horses without food & water, and "non-ambulatory horses dying where they lay in puddles of mud and urine."
(All Photographs provided by anonymous sources, taken between 8/12/11-8/18/11)
After receiving cruelty complaints & pictures on 8/15/11, the Presidio County Sheriff's Office stated that they would launch an investigation. On 8/19/11, the Sheriff's Office removed several horses from the C4 pens. At the same time, the Texas Department of Environmental Quality (TCEQ) launched an investigation in regards to the illegal carcass dumping.
Animals' Angels Investigation:
Animals' Angels requested a status update from the Presidio County Sheriff's Office as well as TCEQ in February and also submitted Public Information Act requests regarding horse shipments and any prior investigations of the C4 pens.
The TCEQ request revealed that they investigated dead horses being dumped on private property by C4 on October 2010, June 2011, August 2011, finding a total of 56 or more horse carcasses, most along Cibolo Creek. At least 6 were microchipped, one horse was branded with a blue "D", indicating that it had been delivered to the pens by Dorian Ayache and then was rejected by the Mexican authorities. Paperwork obtained also showed that the following kill buyers were delivering horses to the C4 pens: Dorian Ayache (TN), Bill Richardson (TX), Joe Rios (TX), Trent Saulters (TX), Dennis Kunz (UT), Ryon Simon (MN), Double JJ Horse Company (OK) and Triple Crown Ranch (OK).
In the August 2011 report TCEQ states, "The cause of death of these horses remains unknown and should be further investigated by the appropriate agency having jurisdiction in this matter." This would indicate that the sheriff's office was enjoined to investigate.
However, TCEQ has informed AA that further information is not available to the public but is under "Management Review."
The Presidio County Sheriff's Office response included no documents of a cruelty investigation against C4. Apparently, there are also no records of any complaints ever being submitted. However, Deputy Sheriff Nunez acknowledged in an earlier email (8/15/11) to complainant the receipt of the complaint & the pictures and confirmed that 2 cruelty investigations were ongoing.
Dead horse and trenches visible
The Sheriff's Department did provide some documents of an investigation related to C4's illegal dumping. It included landfill records, showing that in June, July and August of 2011 C4 dumped approximately 50 dead horses/month at the landfill.
The photographic evidence submitted to the Presidio Sheriff's Department suggests cruel and inhumane treatment on C4 property where horses were in the "custody and control" (as described in state law) of C4. What happened?
Investigation on the ground: Presidio 3/ 6-7/2012
Investigators immediately observe a truck unloading horses from Three Angels Farms (Dorian and Edwin Ayache) whose February wreck in TN (crashing within an hour of leaving origin), killed 3 and injured several of the 38 horses. http://www.wkrn.com/story/16531100/overturned-cattle-truck-closes-both-directions-of-i-40.
A Dennis Chinn truck (Pratt, KS) sits empty nearby.
Both Ayache and Chinn trucking companies have many violations, the most recent include 31 violations for Vehicle Maintenance, 4 Unsafe Driving, 9 Fatigued Driving, Driver Fitness and Crash with Injury.
Three Angels Farms Trailer
A second Three Angels Farm truck is observed with holes, loose boards, broken overhead piping that put horses at risk of severe injuries.
Wrangler Grain truck, Mount Pleasant, TX and Robert Jackson truck and trailer, Marietta, OK are also seen.
Dead Horse in C4 Pens
No vantage point allows AA investigators to see inside the pens. After renting a helicopter, investigators observe 2 dead horses in a pen with other live horses. Water is available to all horses, but little to no hay can be seen in the pens and there is no shelter from the desert sun. Investigators note temperature is already 93 degrees. TX Animal Health & Safety code 821.021 defines cruelly treated as "unreasonably deprived of necessary food, care, or shelter."
Investigators believe the flyover caused C4 to remove the dead horses shortly afterwards. The horses observed on the C4 trailer as it waited outside the landfill appear to have been dead for some time, the bay mare observed from the air, is bloated, her legs stiff and extended. Scavengers have eaten her anus. The dead chestnut is terribly, extremely boney with hip, rib bones clearly defined, her anus also eaten. Investigators also checked horses for bullet holes that would indicate euthanasia, but none were visible.
Leaving the pens, investigators go to the border crossing and see two new Mexican transport trailers without semis parked in the unshaded broker lot, one already loaded. The trailer fully loaded with horses sits there for 4+ hours in the hot afternoon sun and is still there when investigators leave.
Investigators note that on these new trailers the sides can be closed completely, which makes it impossible to check en route if a horse has gone down or if there are other problems. Closed, the metal trailer would be intensely hot. Unfortunately and predictably, trailers loaded with horses documented at the border waiting to cross were completely closed.
While some improvements were noted (no illegal dumping of dead horses was observed), horses are still dying at the C4 pens in Presidio. It appears carcasses are left in the pens with other horses and are not immediately removed. The pens have no shelter from the desert sun. Questions remain regarding adequate food.
Transport trailers & procedures observed in Presidio are unacceptable. Animals' Angels has discussed with USDA officials the dangerous disrepair of the Ayache trailer, the detached loaded trailers waiting for hours, and the closed up Mexican trailers. They have promised to take a look further into each.
Concerns also remain regarding no confirmed sheriff's investigation and TCEQ's review that is unavailable to the public for an unknown period of time. It now appears that the slow deaths of multiple horses in 2011 were never investigated and that no charges were filed against C4 for cruelty to animals. It appears the real bottom line here is that horses suffered and continue to suffer in Presidio.
Horse slaughter is no excuse. A normal horse owner, who just left his or her ailing horse to suffer and die, would be charged with animal cruelty. It should be no different for these horses.