There’s no shortage of thoroughbreds boxed into the trailers that rattle into the dirt parking lot at Dominique’s Livestock Market in Opelousas on Tuesdays, to be sold to the highest bidder…
And there’s plenty of unwanted attention around the stockyard’s auction arena, focused on the fit-and-twitchy racehorses for sale. Thoroughbred lovers have kicked up a social media firestorm over the fate of horses coming off the track and landing in the hands of “kill buyers.”
“We got caught up in a hot crossfire,” said Mike Dominique, general manager and auctioneer in the 82-year-old family business, a combination flea market and recycling depot for livestock.
Wooden benches rise from a hay-lined pen in the crescent-shaped arena, where about 80 people settled in on a spring morning. A few wore spurs.
It’s a place where farm couples enter the bidding at $50 on miniature horses for their doe-eyed kids, while “kill buyers” scoop up stock bound for Mexican slaughterhouses.
“We’re in thoroughbred country. You got the old broodmares. You got the horses that were on the track as colts. Yearlings. All those. We’ll sell anything. We sell them all,” said Dominique, who calls the auctions in a monotone patter from a perch above the pen.
“I’m not a slaughter sale, where every horse that comes to me goes to slaughter. Anybody can purchase that animal and do whatever they want with it,” he added. “It’s an old country horse sale. We sell cheap horses.”
But the retired racehorses aren’t as cheap since Jacob Thompson hatched a plan to ransom retired thoroughbreds to horse lovers online at premium prices, using the threat of imminent slaughter. Eventually, more than 100 of them would land on pastures in Union Parish under the care of a local farrier, Hal Parker.
A New Jersey horsewoman’s heartstrings had snapped over Thompson’s “rescue” ads. Dina Alborano started a website, ICareIHelp.com, to raise the horses’ “bail” money, and she hired Parker to care for them before adoption.
But several horses that went from Dominique’s auction house to Thompson’s “kill lot” to Parker’s pasture have turned up dead, sick or gnawing at tree roots in starvation. Parker has remained jailed for five months, booked on animal cruelty and livestock theft charges…(CONTINUED)