HOUSTON, (Horseback) – The director of the largest state park system in the continental United States has embroiled himself in a controversy that has already stirred the passions of animal advocates nationwide. Furthermore, he has possibly been enmeshed in an outright lie.
Greater Houston Horse Council president Barbara Chopek, a Magnolia, Texas realtor, wrote State Parks Director Brent Leisure in outrage after learning 11 horses from Big Bend Ranch State Park had been sold to slaughter. The note from the council president should carry special weight with the department. This year, The GHHC has worked directly with the state parks department to establish horse trails at Galveston Island State Park and Sea Rim State Park. It has also served on a TPWD committee to screen candidates for a horse livery contract at Lake Livingston State Park.
Earlier in the year the state sold about 60 Texas prison horses to killer buyer Trent Saulters for slaughter.
Chopek wrote to the director as well as to others in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Power train after Horseback had published internal state documents obtained by investigator Julie Caramante showing the state was well aware they were selling horses to a known “killer buyer” purveying animals to a Mexican horse slaughterhouse across the Rio Grande from Presidio, Texas.
“As I sit here tonight reading about your recent “culling of the herd” at Big
Bend Ranch State Park my blood is boiling. Can you really be doing this? I
would like to suggest you make a visit to Presidio, Tx and see the
deplorable conditions these horses are kept in before they are shipped
across the border to the most inhumane slaughter plants in existence. Why on
earth would our state parks department allow indiscriminate breeding of the
horses entrusted to their care? I read a comment by Kevin Good that stated
“as horses do sometimes, they made baby horses” is an adult state employee
actually making this comment and is he UNSUPERVISED?
I don’t know whether to laugh or CRY! Good grief I hope he is not a father
of teenage boys!
I hope what I am reading is a case of the left hand not knowing what the
right is doing and not the customary way TPWD conducts daily business,
because if it is I now know why Texas State Parks are pleading for help.
Here are my suggestions
Geld all stallions at once.
Any surplus horses need to be given up to rescue groups, not sold across the
river for slaughter Make some intelligent decisions folks……the people of
this state will not stand for this activity or decision making process.
Take a drive to Presidio…..what you will see will sicken you.
Have a good night’s sleep all
Greater Houston Horse Council”
In a memo acquired by Caramante under Texas open records laws park officials settled on the rock bottom “canner” horse price of .25 cents per pound. In an August 12, 2012 memo obtained by the investigator TPWD official Dan Sholly wrote:
“Are we willing to take canner prices for our horses? Is that all they are worth? No blood lines? No high potential for more than dog food?
I am supportive of reducing the ramuda.”
Another memo obtained by Caramante stated:
“I have found a local buyer in Presidio who will buy all of the horses from the park we no longer need. He will come pick up the horses at Sauceda on his expense. This will save us money on fuel and travel cost to the auction. I have called the Talpa Horse sale near San Angelo and the going price is $0.35 per pound: the local buyer will pay us $0.25 per pound…Please consider this option for the park and sale of horses to a local buyer, and exempt us from a surplus sale.”
In an email to Chopek, Leisure confirmed the longtime killer buyer sold the horses to Mexico. He claimed the park staff was unaware of the killer buyer’s intentions to sell for slaughter even though they had used terms such as “canner prices” and the going rate for the sale of slaughter horses. The director wrote:
“Thank you for expressing your concern regarding the recent sale of
horses from Big Bend Ranch State Park.
State Park management has investigated this situation and determined
that the buyer of these horses did sell the animals in Mexico. Although
park staff was unaware of the buyer’s intentions prior to the sale, we
realize in hindsight that greater diligence should have been exercised
before allowing the sale to proceed. I regret this error, and have
directed my staff to explore other options when herd reductions are
Big Bend Ranch State Park has historically maintained a herd of several
dozen horses for use by staff in carrying out their work as well as for
public use in trail rides. Due to operational changes and a reduction
in the cattle herd size, there is no longer a need for as many horses at
Big Bend Ranch State Park. We are working with legal and property
staff to determine what options might be available to us, such as the
potential to donate horses to a nonprofit entity for a beneficial
purpose which would ensure their future care. If you are aware of
suitable organizations that you believe may be interested in accepting
horses, I would appreciate that information.”