Texas Parks and Wildlife Parks Director May Need Spin Lessons

By Steven Long

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.

Chopek wrote:

“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

Barb Chopek
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:

“Ms. Chopek,

“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.”

22 comments for “Texas Parks and Wildlife Parks Director May Need Spin Lessons

  1. September 1, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    skip ~ You miss the entire point of the study – of course. The issue is that horses contaminated with bute have been entering the human food chain for years and the USDA failed to do anything about it. TBs were used because they have traceability and had ALREADY gone into the human food chain – bute and all. AND, the practice was continuing even as it was proven that THESE contaminated horses had already been slaughtered for human consumption.

    Give it up already!

    Yes, my horses have been given bute.

    • Joe
      September 2, 2012 at 10:10 am


      That is fine if you or another person who has a horse that requires BUTE. You and the other anti slaughter do not send your horses to slaughter, what is your point. If there were so many horses that had bute given in the past,the records would show there is more getting condemnded. There is only a couple of reports. Just think about the fact, there is more than 70% of the horses Canada slaughters that come from America. There should be a whole lot more rejected if what you say is true. We also have a lot of drugs found in our American livestock. There are many recent articles about California feedlots and dairy cattle reported, but again found. My point is that if you ship eother horses or cattle to slaughter you will get caught. Plain and simple, if the animal identification signed by the owner is forged or lied on, you will get caught. This is not new, been going on for years. Testing of liver and kidneys has been going on in America for several, including horses since 2000. Nothing new like you people say..

      SHOW THE PROOF for what you say…

  2. August 25, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    What a liar! It says right in the emails..canners.. I wrote an email letter to them too, detailing options, and asking how so many people supposedly involved with animals could not know that Horse Meat has been banned from dog food for decades.. It is toxic to dogs (and humans too).. Let’s stay on this.. This was no apology. It was stupid CYA for a LIAR.

    • Marie C. Almon
      August 26, 2012 at 2:50 pm

      Good afternoon,

      For my information, and for research purposes, will you provide me with the documentation and background of “that Horse Meat has been banned from dog food for decades”?

      Specifically: Was this Federal legislation? When? Were public hearings held on the matter?

      What agency/agencies of government are tasked with enforcing this ban?

      I was so glad to read your letter; this is such useful information!!!

      Marie C. Almon
      Equine Media Consultants

      • admin
        August 26, 2012 at 2:57 pm

        Horse meat has been banned for use in dog food since the 1970s. Recently, the European Union banned import of horse meat from animals that have been given about 25 dangerous chemicals during their lifetime. A landmark study was release a couple of years ago regarding the use of phenalbutazone (bute) in horses. The commonly used drug carries a lifetime ban from the FDA.


        The Editor

        • skip
          August 27, 2012 at 7:47 pm

          To the editor-the “landmark study”you refer to is presumably the work done by Dr. Marini,using all TB’s as a study group,horses we all know are subject to regular administration of bute-hardly a cross section of the total population of horses going to slaughter(which is guesstimated at 1% of the total population of horses in this country).As usual,you are quick to have readers believe that most horses in this country have been administered bute,something that is patently false and undocumented.Please note that a ban on a product has no bearing on how much is used,nor the danger level;Rat droppings,rodent hair and other little undesirables should be banned as far as I’m concerned,but are actually allowed up to a certain % in our food,as they supposedly don’t pose a threat up to a certain level.The drug issue has been used very effectively by anti-slaughter proponents,yet they’ve still been unable to document they’re argument w/facts(standard answer-it’s banned,end of story).

          • admin
            August 27, 2012 at 7:53 pm

            Sorry Skip, virtually every horse owner I know has used bute on their horse at one time or another – and often borrowed it from me. Spin will never overcome common sense or common knowledge. Sorry. If I asked our readers here if they ever used bute on their horse, the response would be overwhelming and you know it.

  3. Christie
    August 25, 2012 at 1:10 am

    I am utterly over-the-top with tax payer dollars being used to pay salaries for animal abuses and government sanctioned abuse. This is government over-reach, abuse of power, and government failing to hire or to train minimally competent employees.

    Just out of curiousity, does the state of Texas have a state Civil Service Exam that anyone who wants to be considered for a state job has to take? Does it have any kind of ranking system to determine who gets preference for certain jobs based on military service, prior experience, education, and Civil Service Exam scores?

  4. Dixie
    August 24, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    How ridiculous! There are plenty of places for broke “trail” horses to go other than to Mexico! I have people email me all the time wanting a broke horse just to ride around on in a pasture and I’m sure they would pay more than .25 per pound for that pleasure.
    Give me a break!!

  5. Laurie Neilio
    August 24, 2012 at 11:12 am

    I too have family in Texas who care about the abuse of horses. Those reponcible for this horrendous act should be dismissed and not allowed to work in or near horses or any other animal again. There are many honest and good hearted people out of work…

  6. Lis Bender
    August 24, 2012 at 11:01 am

    I have written to Gov. Rick Perry expressing outrage at this misuse and abuse of these animals.
    So sorry for any inconvience to Mr. Leisure – he obviously has too much on his plate to handle the the relocation of state horses and clarity of mind to figure out that this is an abuse of his position.
    We don’t pay our taxes for this kind of incompetence.
    YOU SHOULD BE FIRED!! You are either incompetent or lazy – neither of which should be acceptable to your boss.

    • August 25, 2012 at 1:33 pm

      We need to start by firing Rick Perry. There have been nothing but Animal atrocities since he became the governor…Including the advocates having to fight against horse slaughter returning to Texas..
      PS. thanks to Julie Caramante and Horseback Magazine.. Our heroes with the truth!

      • admin
        August 25, 2012 at 3:34 pm

        We are told there will be a full court press in the 2013 session of the Texas Legislature to overturn the Texas law banning horse slaughter. The law has been upheld by the Supreme Court so it will take legislative action to nullify it. The session begins in January and will last 140 days.

        The Editor

        • September 1, 2012 at 3:30 pm

          I winder if they are aware of the new EU regulations that will be enforced starting in July 31, 2013.

          Just how do they plan to comply?

  7. Denise
    August 24, 2012 at 9:08 am

    I am soooooo sick and tired of ignorant, arrogant, nasty, evil human people, especially the ones that are in charge of controlling my resources and quality of life.

    Didn’t know TWPD was in the meat biz.

  8. Kathy
    August 24, 2012 at 5:38 am

    Since you are the director, do you not know what is going on with your staff? You have employees working for YOU that are completely ignorant…oh, they may not know what that word means, I hope you do. You may explain gelding to them. In stating that you had no idea of where the horses were going, makes you sound like an incompetent director and maybe all of you need to go back to school. If you did know, then there are no words for what you would do for a buck.
    There are horse rescue groups. How many were contacted about taking these animals? Instead of sending these animals off to a horrific death after years of working for the park service they could at least been humanely put down. Seems the horses were actually smarter than your employees.

    • Deirdre
      August 24, 2012 at 6:58 am

      I am appalled by what happened to these innocent, beautiful horses as well. Shame on that “Park” for allowing sacred beings to be inhumanely killed.

  9. Becky Aden
    August 24, 2012 at 5:33 am

    This is disgusting! WE THE PEOPLE have requested, begged, asked you to leave OUR wild horses alone! They are ours, on our public lands….Park Directors are trying to run these parks like their OWN ranches, making decisions like those horses are theirs….Really, what are they hurting in Big Bend?…I am a Texan, leave them alone! I paid the taxes to keep them there!

  10. August 24, 2012 at 12:30 am

    Thank you Julie Caramante deserves high praise for bringing this story to the public. It is but one stone turned, there are many more to be found. Thank you, Julie for all that you do, and so bravely. The equines need more people like you. How much more corruption will be found when we dig deeper?

  11. August 24, 2012 at 12:22 am

    TPWD has utterly destroyed the people’s trust and demonstrated they are not up to the job mandated of “protecting and preserving the cultural and historical resources” of the lands they manage. They are an abysmal failure. They are bringing to a halt the very popular and long standing cattle drives. People from all walks of life could sign up and join in so they could experience what it was like to work on a ranch in Texas in the 1800’s herding longhorn. They are getting rid of the heritage herd of longhorns who have genetics going back 500 years! No more cattle drives, no more cattle, no more horses. They intend to shoot from helicopters in October the remaining longhorns they cannot gather because they have gone wild. Certainly any horses, burros, elk, aoudad, cougar, or bobcat who come across their sites will be shot too, and left to rot. It is the TPWD way of doing business, and it is not up to par with the expectations of an agency paid by the people of the United States of America. (Yes, they get federal dollars too) FOIA documents I have received in the recent past discussed the need for secrecy from the public of these activities. They state, if people are present do not shoot. I was told that they don’t shoot in the winter as much either because the vultures are not active. Disturbing to hear from a person charged with protecting our wildlife.

    Spin control is right. They lie, they cheat, they play shell games with the taxpayer’s money, and they do all of this without direct over-sight. We need a Congressional inquiry into the management of our parks lands. We need to demote all of the employees back to the role they should be playing which is giving tours, enforcement and providing information. The parks need over-sight by a panel of people chosen by the public. And, the department itself needs to get rid of the Entrepreneurial Budget Strategy that gives superintendents carte blanc free range to find ways to make money with the parks they oversee. It is a conflict of interest created in the 90’s that has changed the departments focus from conservation to business. It doesn’t work.

    In 2013 the state legislature meets again, and I do believe this needs to be on the agenda. Not only is TPWD going to move toward privatization of all their parks, but they are moving to change the intended land usage of Big Bend Ranch State park which was purchased expressly to preserve the ranching way of life. It was in the language of the sale and promises made to landowners who sold them their properties to merge into this huge tract of land.

    This is what I got yesterday for my most recent open records request about the burros they are “supposedly” not shooting at the moment. Stonewall.

    Dear Ms. Farabee,

    We have been working on your request, and I have been informed that there are approximately 100,000 emails that were received by the agency in reference to the burros. I believe they are all of the same format, but just sent by different people. Under the Public Information Act, email addresses of members of the public are confidential, and therefore every email would have to be printed and redacted before it could be released to you. This would generate enormous costs to you for the time spent to do that. Would it be sufficient to provide you with just one of those emails so you can see the format? If not, I will prepare a formal cost estimate for you to provide you with the rest of the emails. Thank you, and have a good day.

    Laura Russell
    Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
    (512) 389-8335
    (512) 389-4482 (fax)

    Learn how you can help Texas State Parks

  12. Barbara Warner
    August 23, 2012 at 11:09 pm

    What an outrage. I’m sending this to friends and family in Texas.
    Many thanks, Steve and Julie and Barb also.

  13. Dawn
    August 23, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    Big Bend cannot claim a lack of knowledge in what would happen to the horses, they just didn’t care enough to ask. They should not be allowed to maintain ANY horses because of their lack of caring and concern for animals that served them well. Sanction them with administrative unpaid LEAVE then fire them and hire people who give a damn!

Comments are closed.