Horse News

Kentucky: Horse Capitol or Horse Slaughter Central

Article and Information by Animal’s Angels

Kentucky is marketed to would-be tourists as the Horse Capital of the World, the state with “unbridled spirit.” The logo sports a horse galloping through the word ‘Kentucky.’ 

Transportation Injury ~ photo by Animal's Angels

Ironically, Kentucky is among the worst states in terms of animal cruelty laws. Last year’s MSNBC article titled “5 worst states to be an animal: Abuse laws lax”, opens with, “What’s the punishment for being cruel to an animal? In five states – Idaho, Hawaii, Kentucky, Mississippi and North Dakota – the law’s response is, ‘Not much.'”

“Not much” is thoroughly corroborated by AA’s recent investigations in KY.

KY laweven prohibits veterinarians from reporting animal abuse or neglect, pointing to the client’s right of confidentiality, which is completely at odds with the Veterinarian’s oath swearing “…the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering.”

When the law was passed in 2009, many claimed the outcome was “unintended” and promised it would be corrected in 2011. But the revision bill did not pass this spring (There were in fact, no bills opposed by the Kentucky Farm Bureau that passed during the 2011 legislative session), and the perversion of client confidentiality continues to the detriment of animals.

During June and July, AA spent 14 days on the road and found 14 different horse slaughter-related operations. Many of the 14 were simply chanced upon as investigators rounded a corner to find another grim, manure-filled paddock with 50 or more thin horses, wearing slaughter tags, and semis pulled up to large loading ramps.

Some of What AA Investigators Found

At the Larry Browning property in Butler, KY, AA investigators found approximately 100 horses, many of them very thin to emaciated, lethargic, and coughing. Some were penned in an area used for manure disposal, standing on ground covered with manure and urine, their hay thrown on top of the filth.

It turned out there is a history of complaints against Browning about starving horses on his property. Animals’ Angels obtained photographs taken at the Browning premises on June 15th. , that show extremely emaciated horses with life threatening body scores of 1.5 or less.

However, only a few days after the photos were taken, a KY Department of AG inspector visited the property and reported there was “nothing alarming”, complaints were “unfounded”, there was “adequate quality hay”, and that all horses had a body score of 3.5 and above. No pictures were included in the inspectors report.

AA investigators identified a large 350 horse auction in Smith’s Grove, KY, apparently managed by known kill buyer Tim Ryan. Ryan ordered employees around and was later observed drawing blood for Coggins’ testing, a blatant violation of regulations. Several other kill buyers were present at the auction. Outside, it was 86 degrees with no breeze and almost 100% humidity. Inside was worse with no fans running, lots of dust and no food or water for any animal. Handling was rough as horses were forced through a chute 3 at a time. Kill horses were kept away from the public eye, in pens all the way in the back of the barn. Several of these horses were very thin, one had a gashed, bleeding forehead, an apparent transport injury. Kill horses sold very quickly around midnight after most of the public had left.

At the David Shaw Slaughter Horse Collecting Station in Scottsville, KY, AA investigators found 35 to 40 horses. The pens were extremely run-down and contained lots of trash and debris, and a dilapidated building with its roof caved in. The horses stood on piles of manure with a large pile filling up one corner of the pen. Several of the horses were very thin and kept their heads low. Several were coughing. All had slaughter tags attached to them, ready to be shipped to Canada for slaughter.

The investigation continued at facilities with records of Transport to Slaughter Violations including R & R Livestock in Murray, Ryan’s Horse Company in Rineyville and Wrights Farm in Sturgis. Documents show that many KY horse traders supply some of the biggest kill buyers in other states like Ohio, Minnesota and Louisiana. According to documents Animals’ Angels obtained from the USDA, at least two facilities provide horses to large scale kill buyer Jeron Gold in Michigan.

In Kentucky, it seems those associated with horse slaughter can operate with little to worry about. Laws do nothing to protect animals but offer major protection to those guilty of animal cruelty. The animal cruelty statute in KY is waived if killing an animal by mutilating, beating, failing to provide water and food, etc., is “incident to processing for food or some other commercial purpose… [or] sporting activity.”

Where to now

During our investigation KY’s “Unbridled Spirit” was definitely unchecked-an unhindered evil spirit of abuse & neglect. Investigators’ experienced a KY that has done nothing to protect the very animals they so readily use to market their state.

AA’s first KY investigation has revealed some of the main kill buyers and documented conditions of the horses and the sites. But this is just the start, more investigations will follow. Our goal is to collect and use evidence to create significant public awareness and to push hard for better laws and better enforcement, and to target offenders in the courts. When the time comes, AA’s investigations and evidence will be ready for KY’s next legislative session.

KY deserves a lot of our attention. It is truly needed here. To be in a real sense the “horse capitol of the world” requires genuine leadership and responsibility, not just a logo. KY should live up to the name they have given themselves.

Read the full investigative report… 

23 replies »

  1. Take time to listen to Sen Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Minority Leader and key player in the debt ceiling, FAA, etc….one creepy, ignorant, special interest driven weirdo. Not that Reid is any better; they are both horse haters.


    • How and where do we listen. I just can’t imagine this in the state of KY that is known for its tremendous Horse Park and Veterinarian sites. Surely they will do something about this.


  2. I’ve sent this to the Lexington paper, KY HSUS, my Senator in Frankfort and other KY contacts. Annie with Speak Up for Horses is sending it to the governor’s wife. Also sent it to Dr. Stout at the KY Dept.of Agr. that is SUPPOSED to do investigations. I am wondering who went with AA.
    This is a disgrace . I fought the local horse dealer here for years until he finally died. His son was president of the AVMA.


  3. …..and I was planning on a trip to the Kentucky Horse Park next year; looks like the tourism people need an alert!
    I watched the AA video and it is hard to believe that those rusty trailers are allowed to travel on their highways with full loads of horses–another reason to stay away from Kentucky.


  4. There are individuals and private orgs in KY trying to make a difference, but their state house is an ignorant, good ol’ boy disaster. This is not a wealthy state to begin with, but that are in government at the top are wealthy.

    And remember, Rep Whitfield (sp?) sponsors bills for our equines in Congress.


    • Well, that last post came in “broken and stupid”……I meant to say those in government at the top are reasonably well off.


  5. But Barbara , you can come visit me and I’ll take you to the KY Horse Park. I sent the link to the tourist contact with KY’s disgrace as the title. BTW the Farm Bureau stops the cruelty laws I’ve been told and AA mentions it.


    • BOOOH!!!!….HISSSSSS!!!!! Farm Bureau sucks!

      Everyone that has a need for insurance should bust their butts to find nonFB alternatives. These guys (and yes, gals) are creeps…. Ag Hag, nonprogressive animal unfriendly fascists.


  6. Living right next door to KY, I am appalled that Kentucky has worse animal cruelty laws on the books than Ohio. I’m sure if someone would follow a horse trader or kill buyer truck from disgusting auction to disgusting auction, state to state. The ‘Final Destination’ would be Canada or Mexico. Like in the movies where the actors die a horrible death over and over, these animals die over an over, too. At each and every auction house a little more of their soul is destroyed. Where is humanity? Just like the movies there seems to be no end to sequels, either.


  7. I wish we could follow all of these kill buyers trailers, find a willing supporter, and pay them off, and take the horses to a rescue where we could attempt to save them all. There must be a weathly wild horse supporter or supporters to fund this. In the meantime, we run the killer buyers names all over newspaper, tv channels, and any other source we can find, so he will be humilated (if that’s possible, which I doubt) and disgraced. It’s about time we concentrate on these individuals as well.


  8. Sent a message to Diane Sawyer from ABC News as Kentucky is her home state and was my parents also. Thanks Animal Angels for shedding light on the real world!


  9. Ick if they treat horses that way what about cattle–are they treated as badly? The only good thing I can say here is thank God I don’t eat horse and I never will.


  10. Below is a copy of a note I sent to the dept managing Tours and Meetings at the website Barbara Steele noted above. The woman I found is at This was located after some trouble, as the address is wrongly listed on some parts of the site, and the office was very obstructive in helping obtain a address to anyone. We need to embarrass the very operations which seek to trade on the image of a horse-loving Kentucky citizenry. Only negative PR will bring about change. There are LOTS of wealthy people in the state, it is not about income, it is about power and money.

    Miss Amburgey—The operator at the main number for the Kentucky Dept. of Tourism refused to give me a email address for the organization— “we don’t do that”, she said, so I shall write to you. I am forwarding on a scandalous report on the very animal Kentucky promotes as a mascot for the state. The truth seems to be much more troubling, and tourists are becoming aware. I was in the process of planning a trip to the Kentucky Horse Park in October, but shall instead spend my money and effort on exposing the egregious horse slaughter operations herein detailed. If this report should be addressed to a more pertinent office within your tourist board, please let me know. Things could be much better for the iconic horses in Kentucky, but powerful agriculture people at the top are tamping down efforts of humane reform for their own profit-driven reasons. It reflects VERY POORLY on your state. This, by the way, is an on-going investigation by a very small, but dedicated non-profit made up mostly of women. I hope you pay it some attention.
    I am sending the abbreviated report as a second note immediately after this one. Within that post is a link to the full AA report with more detail and larger photographs. I will send the same documents to any other tourism related websites associated with Kentucky also.

    Please reply, Susan Rudnicki Manhattan Beach, Ca


  11. I pray for the investigators at Animal Angels. I know from past work to have to leave situations like this and not be able to help must be gut wrenching. This should be exposed to all the organizations using the Kentucky Horse Park. I’m
    sure Kentucky would not have been named for the Summer Equestrian games.
    Perhaps all of this should be exposed to those securing the games for Kentucky. I remember writing the Governor regarding horses be left in parks,
    ect. He had another position on the subject. So I guess i will be calling and
    emailing this fellow. Holly smokes, when will this ever stop! I sent an email off
    to the park in Texas and received more rhetoric about the destrction of native
    species and that they have been in contact with 2 equine rescue groups who more or less agree with their practices..


  12. I used to be a big fan of horse races, as I believe horses running is one of the 7 wonders of the world. But I have since learned about the brutal side of racing and prefer to find wild horses running. I did, however, watch the Derby this year. I remember the announcer saying that 30,000 horses were born 3 years ago, all with the hopes of running that day. Thirty thousand!!! What is that all about? No matter how much AA or any of us try to help the horses, we must get the breeders under control.


  13. RIGHT ON CRYSTAL! If there were only 10,000 wouldn’t the stakes be just as high? The winner circle be just as alluring? The end game is to win, not to see who can breed the most horses!


    • He is in ky.. Not for sure what part but bought 17 head of horses at a regular horse sale in tenn.. Wild and everything noyhing over 200..


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