Horse News

PA Fraud Case Shines Spotlight on Horse Slaughter Issue

by Amy Worden of

The case sparked widespread outrage inside the horse industry and among ordinary animal lovers alike.

A young Pennsylvania horse dealer was charged with defrauding horse owners by posing as a rescue and instead sending their animals to slaughter.

A preliminary hearing for Kelsey Lefever 24, of Honeybrook, was to be held in Dauphin County Monday but the case was continued and is rescheduled for Feb. 21.

The five counts of fraud against Lefever, who was well known in the show horse world and in rescue circles, were brought the Pennsylvania State Police in November after a months-long investigation.

In two instances Lefever had told the owners of retired racehorses at Penn National racetrack outside of Harrisburg that she would retrain and find homes for their horse.

Instead she sold them to “kill buyers” in a parking lot deal at the New Holland auction in Lancaster who shipped them to Canada to be butchered for meat for human consumption overseas.

But testimony by a witness suggests there were many more. Lefever, she said, told her she sent 120 horses to slaughter. (See Inquirer story here)

Lefever could face 31 years of imprisonment and fines of up to $65,000 if convicted on the three felony and two misdemeanor counts, according to prosecutors.

The Lefever case emerged just as the debate over slaughter has gained steam again. Horse slaughter had effectively been banned in the U.S. since 2008 when the last plant closed because federal funding for inspectors had been eliminated.

Now, under a new budget bill, that funding has been restored. Pro-slaughter advocates, like United Horsemens Front which will focus on slaughter in the U.S. at its annual meeting in April, have been lobbying to bring back the industry pointing to what they call a glut of horses.

They also argue that unwanted horses would suffer less if they were killed in plants in this country, rather than being shipped to Mexico or Canada as they are now.

But don’t tell any of that to the average American who does not believe equine pets belong on dinner plates.

That’s according to the ASPCA which conducted a nationwide poll last week that found 80 percent of Americans oppose horse slaughter.

“The overwhelming majority of Americans are not just against horse slaughter but are intensely opposed to this cruel practice. As more people learn that we are allowing our horses to be shuttled off to a gruesome death all for the sake of foreign gourmands, they are outraged and opposition for this grisly act is growing,” said Nancy Perry, senior vice president of ASPCA Government Relations. “Anyone who has been to the movies lately knows the price horses have paid by carrying us to war, building our nation, and serving our entertainment and companionship needs. Americans have a responsibility to protect these intelligent, sensitive animals from being butchered.”

Here’s why the ASPCA says slaughter is inhumane:

Horse slaughter is inherently cruel because the biology of horses makes them difficult to stun and they often remain conscious during their slaughter. In addition, horsemeat can be toxic to humans, as horses are frequently administered drugs that violate the safety regulations mandated for food animals.

U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan (R., PA) is among federal lawmakers advocating for a permanent ban on horse slaughter in the U.S. The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (H.R. 2966 and S. 1176 ), which would prohibit the sale and transport of horses for slaughter in the United States, as well as across the border to Canada and Mexico. The passage of this legislation would end the current export and slaughter of approximately 100,000 American horses each year.

The group also argues the majority of horses killed for human consumption are in good condition and could go on to lead productive lives in loving homes. They just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, the ASPCA says, and this means that any horse, no matter how loved, is just one bad sale away from the slaughterhouse until the nation bans this practice.

Many groups are trying to do their part to reroute horses that might end up crammed in a trailer heading for the border, chief among them is Philadelphia Park, which three years ago began what is likely the strongest anti-slaughter program of any racetrack.

The track banned the auction sale of horses off the track and warned trainers they would permanently lose their stalls if they were caught (Track officials say they just threw out the first trainer caught violating the restriction). At the same time, they developed a retrain and rehome program, Turning for Home, which is funded by fees placed on winnings, uses area trainers to turn racehorses into show and pleasure horses.

Maryland trainer Steuart Pitman, who works with young retired racehorses at his farm, prepping them for new careers, last month launched the Retired Racehorse Trainer Challenge – think “Dancing with the Stars” for horse trainers and equines.

Four top trainers were matched with four right-off-the-track thoroughbreds at the Maryland Horse Expo last month. (For a report on the kick off click on the Chronicle of the Horse here). You can follow their progress through blog entries and video on the RRTC website and on its Facebook page.

At the Pennsylvania Horse Expo later this month (Feb. 24-26), the trainers will show off their mounts and a winner will be chosen.

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12 replies »

  1. Let the gavel of justice SLAM down on these predatory, deceitful folks in this industry. It is time Americans scream from their roof tops at our politicians to get off the fence and pass S1176 & HR2966. We know who has been bought and paid for, don’t look for re election dirty boys and gals!


  2. My local Conservative MPs Bruce Stanton, Garfield Dunlop, Tony Clement say horses slaughtered in Canada for their meat are raised on farms here! They do not acknowledge any articles that you send by email, posts on facebook or twitter. Only the NDP & Green Party care & respond! Next time Canadians should vote accordingly!


    • God, the Conservatives just get dumb and dumber. Does being “raised on farms” make it ok to kill man’s second best friend. The Conservatives tow the party line. Whatever Emporer Harper says, they do.


  3. I was happy to see the article ended so well. We horsepeople have to step up to the plate and create the programs, if they are not there, to protect the horses. And that may not mean having the spotlight and accolades for getting out of bed. Slaughter got its grip and kept it because so many of us turned a blind eye. I think those days are over, thank goodness.


  4. So 80% of Americans don’t want horse slaughter in the USA, and are opposed to the transport of horses over the borders to Canada and Mexico. That’s a big majority. That’s a win vote against slaughter. That’s where 80% stand–against. Not for. Hello–anyone confused about this? You can summit til the horses come home for hay—this 80% occupies “against”.


  5. I think there should be a medis “blitz” where this is brought to the front of all tv and papers to bring this to all our citizens. That 80% I know would become well over 90%. This is what we need to bring the anti slaughter/anti transportation across border bill to a final end with passage. I would do anything to help rehome horses and find them new homes. That is their right to be loved and cared for because they have been by our side through thick and thin. THey deserve better and we, not the sobs, need to be there for them. Let’s do this and 2012 will be the year of the horse for sure.


    • THe possibility of thirty one years in prison is garbage. She should be taken to the middle of Death Valley and dropped there with no food or water. She killed 120 plus horses. She is an sob and has no compassion for life. There is no excuse for what she did. All she was after was the green backs. May all like her get maximum punishment from the above creater.


  6. Finally, all these people are being exposed. Throw the book at this Street Walker and put her away for a long, long time. Make her pay the absolute maximum fine..I was glad to see the race track throw out the trainer. Clinton Anderson has also been working with young throughbreds
    off the track too. He has one that he highlights on the RFD tv channel. Finally, the ugly face of
    slaughter is coming to a head. We must all keep the pressure on until the bill is finally passed.


  7. This person and I have a hard time calling her that ,deserves punishment to the fullest extent of the law and should not have her cases all run concurent She shoulld have to do time separately for each case . Those poor horses didn’t get another chance and neither should she!!!!


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