Horse Neglect: On the Rise?

Even those who oppose horse slaughterhouses agree horse neglect is increasing.

"It's even more of a problem across the state," she said. "Slaughtering was not a good situation to begin with, but now it's created other problems."

The issue has reached Congress. The Government Accountability Office has been asked to study the link between the closing of slaughterhouses and horse neglect and report its findings by March 1, 2010, to the Agriculture Appropriations Committee. Another piece of legislation, "The Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of 2009," would prohibit the transport of horses to the border for slaughter. It is currently in committee; it was introduced by Representatives John Conyers (D-MI) and Dan Burton (D-MI) and Senators Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and John Ensign (D-NEV).

Hope for Neglected Horses

Not everyone agrees that the closure of slaughterhouses is the main reason for horse neglect.

Perry, of the U.S. Humane Society, told ABCNews.com that the organization's research shows the amount of horses being slaughtered has remained steady despite the fact that the killing is being done at the borders rather than in the U.S.

Lin Beaune, the director of EPONA Horse Rescue in Kearney, Neb., said she doesn't see any correlation between the shutdown of slaughterhouses and increased neglect.

"They haven't slowed down the slaughtering of horses, they're still being slaughtered over 100,000 a year at the borders, just not in the U.S.," Beaune said. "I think the neglect is from the economy, people losing their jobs and homes." EPONA is full, she said, and can't take any more horses.

Meanwhile, the neglect continues. Owners are dropping off unwanted horses in fields and forests, leaving them to starve.

"I wish we could rescue horses and take them to slaughterhouses and be able to dispose of them in a dignified manner, and right now we can't do that," Sheriff Dean Chase, of Dixon County, Neb., said.

The 35 horses seized in Fillmore County have cost the county more than $30,000. But there is good news: Of the 30 horses that survived, 16 have found homes, and the county expects to have the rest adopted by the end of this week.

ABCNews.com contributor Elicia Dover is a member of the University of Nebraska ABC News on Campus bureau.

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