Saturday, January 02, 2010

Horse Abuse

Horses' fate spurs probe

SOUTHWEST RANCHES, Fla. - -- He never won a single race and finished his last attempt a humiliating 35 lengths behind the winner. Now investigators want to know if Dance Hall Graeme, a descendant of one of the most celebrated thoroughbreds in racing history, was condemned to death at a slaughterhouse.

The 4-year-old thoroughbred was found by one of his former trainers on Christmas Day in Miami-Dade County.

Laurie Goedecke recognized the emaciated gelding and a filly in a photo published with a newspaper article about illegal butchery farms. She had helped train the two horses this year at Calder Race Course in Miami Gardens.

She said she found Dance Hall Graeme looking gaunt, with blood in his nose and ulcers in his mouth. The filly wasn't doing much better. Goedecke said the property owner didn't protest as she and a friend led the horses away in a trailer.

But Dance Hall Graeme, an offspring of Triple Crown winner Secretariat, was later euthanized. The filly is slowly recovering at Goedecke's friend's farm in Southwest Ranches.

Miami Dade police have launched an investigation to see whether the farm where the horses were found has been butchering horses illegally. Under Florida law, a horse can be slaughtered only for its owner's consumption.

Richard Couto, who started the Animal Recovery Mission to investigate slaughterhouses, also is looking into the case.

Couto alleges that farm is just one of many in the Miami-Dade area that is killing retired racehorses to meet the black market for horse meat. "It brings in hundreds of thousands of dollars," said Couto.

Goedecke said she had found a home for Dance Hall Graeme in north Florida after his owner retired him in November. But instead, the gelding was allegedly sold or given to someone who worked at Calder Race Course.

The allegation shocked officials at the race course. Calder has "zero tolerance" for the illegal sale of horses for slaughter, spokeswoman Michele Blanco said.

Moral: No matter who your great-great grandsire is, coming in 35 lengths behind the winner will get you a trip to the dog food factory. Or in this case, the people-food factory.

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