Facebook Helps Save Horse from Being “Eaten by Lions”

Sonja Haller, The Republic | azcentral.com

“They can be food for the cats, and it’s better than putting (the horses) in a landfill,”

Jim Gath, the owner and chief operator at Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary, interacts with his horses daily and makes sure they always have enough attention and human interaction. (Photo: Dominic Valente/The Republic, Dominic Valente/The Republic)
Jim Gath, the owner and chief operator at Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary, interacts with his horses daily and makes sure they always have enough attention and human interaction. (Photo: Dominic Valente/The Republic, Dominic Valente/The Republic)

The headline over the Facebook story could have read: Old, arthritic horse fed to the lions.

The true story, however, has more shades of gray and no-clear cut antagonist. But it did have a happy ending for the hero, a 20-year-old gelding named Spencer.

Spencer was a family horse boarded in Sedona. Once ridden by the family’s children, who had scattered, Spencer had been without a rider for three years. His owner, who lived in Utah, wanted to find him a new home.

“He needed a job. He needed a kid,” said Shelley Woellmer, who worked with the owner to find Spencer a home. Woellmer said the owner is a friend, they board their horses together and together tried for six months to find Spencer a new home. The owner declined to be interviewed.

Looking for someone to adopt him, they tried horse sanctuaries and equine therapy businesses, Woellmer said.

Not everyone who read the Facebook post by non-profit animal-rescue organization AZ Pound Pups knew that. The group put out a call to find a home for Spencer, describing the horse “like a giant dog and will whinny and follow you around anywhere just to be pet/groomed.”

What readers did learn from the Facebook post, shared more than 220 times, was that one fast-approaching option for Spencer was to go to Out of Africa Wildlife Park in Camp Verde.

Woellmer confirmed the owner had approached the park about its horse donation program, which accepts qualified animals as food for the park’s big cats.

Spencer would be, as one poster, Jim Gath, wrote, “fed to the lions.”

The park is known for its lions, tigers and other large animals. Among its dozens of animal attractions is the “Predator Feed,” which invites the public to watch as “they throw 800 pounds of raw food to eagerly waiting carnivores. Plenty of opportunities to take amazing pictures while bears chow down, hyenas laugh, and lions roar,” according to the park’s website.

This bit of news shook up the people following the Facebook feed.

Some people brought up the circle of life — that lions need to eat, too.

Others commented on whether Spencer was better off euthanized, given his arthritis.

But others countered that arthritic horses, with medication such as Spencer was taking, can continue to live long lives.

Out of Africa Wildlife Park had considered the owner’s request to take Spencer.

Through its horse donation program, people complete a form that reads, in part, “We do not take healthy horses, horses with cancer, or horses on medication.”

The donated animal is used to feed the big cats featured at the park.

“We have refused horses because they are too healthy,” said park spokeswoman Linda Peterson, who processes donation requests. The form asks for a veterinarian’s name and number. The vet is called if the park’s specialist in equine donations believes the horse doesn’t meet “end-of-life” standards.

If a horse is deemed end of life, it is shot, since anesthesia medication would taint the meat.

“They can be food for the cats, and it’s better than putting (the horses) in a landfill,” Peterson said.

Out of Africa said the number of horses it accepts a year is private, but that it keeps records to report to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In the end, the park refused Spencer because a video shared on Facebook showed him only days earlier cantering with a rider.

Then, Facebook managed to do what the owner could not….(CONTINUED)

13 comments

  1. How horrible!!! If u didn’t keep the wild animals in parks..you wouldn’t have 2 worry about them! Why do humans intervein when animals that are wild are supposed 2 be left that way! Not caged!..not fenced!..not caught!
    They are supposed to live in the wild & catch their own prey. Which they would if not 4 humans! This is not right..nor has it ever been. Zoos 4 people 2 look at the them & watch…Circuses 4 the same reason. All 4 the almighty $$$$$!!! All they do is make the animal miserable!!! No No No…they wouldn’t ever have a horse in the wild & I for one say NO to the idea. Its inhumane!! Disgusting!
    Humans should learn respect for all living creatures…let them alone!

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  2. Reblogged this on The Trakehner files and commented:
    I may ruffle a few feathers by posting this. A few years ago I would have been enraged that the owner was considering send the horse to the lions.
    Now, as I’ve gotten older and I’ve seen multiple people neglect and starve their horses I think that sometimes donating a horse to a program like this is the best thing for all parties involved.
    Would I ever sell my horses for meat? No. I wouldn’t. They are pets and they are worth more to me than my health. I have sacrificed my honor and my name and my reputation to keep my horses. At the end of the day I don’t care what people say about me. My primary goal is to do what is best for my horses.
    I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to care for two lovely horses. I had a third which I fought to keep safe. I bought her from auction (she wasn’t taken care of); if I was a more dramatic person I would say I rescued her from certain death.
    Did I?
    I’m not sure. This past year I lost a lot of things. I lost my honor, my hope and my faith in a high power. I fought to keep my horses fed. I often went without food. I struggled to work enough to pay the bills. I apologize for this tangent.
    My story won’t be told as I’m not one to proclaim from the rooftops about how great I am for struggling. We all struggle.
    Lexy, the mare I bought from auction, had cancer. I networked out and was able to give her up to a rescue- they were able to send her to get cancer treatment. Lexy is going to help in the fight to destroy cancer. Having to struggle as I did is worth it because she deserved to have someone fight for her.
    This story is one about people giving up and not knowing where to turn. That is the truth. Horse people need to come together and build each other up so that horse owners don’t have to make the heart wrenching decision of sending their horses off to become meat.

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  3. Zoos need to be phased out of modern civilization – lions and other animals should be left in the wild instead of being held captive and fed domestic livestock, and more attention paid to keeping them and their habitat safe and protected – in the wild. Mankind tries to compete with Nature, and fails miserably. Zoo are not safe for the public either – in yet another example in the news recently, a 3-year old fell into a Jaguar enclosure. How did this happen, you may wonder. The child was accompanied by his father and grandfather.

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  4. I’m sorry i have been absent from speaking with all of you , i have been very sick with sinus’s and allergies . I’ve wanted to comment on a few things but just could not but will be going back to some articles that I have need to be said . Now this one is just wrong there are so many other places to be considered besides this place. what is wrong with people leaving off a family pet at this place ,do they not know what is going to happen their loved one ? I could not do it ! humans are manage everything to extinction . Humans are flawed , greedy , dishonest , and right down ugly , so in ending this comment . do your research better so your loved one will be breathing the next time you see him or her. and you people with the cats buy COWS I’m sure you can get a package deal from your local ranchers or better yet go steal a couple of cows as there are so many they won’t be missed. sorry for the saracism…

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  5. Wow–http://m.trib.com/business/energy/interior-secretary-announces-sage-grouse-deal-praises-wyoming-conservation-efforts/article_d31947b0-58cd-5c04-975c-1e58fdc9e418.html?mobile_touch=true

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