HEBER CITY, Utah (KSTU) — A new non-profit is trying to give hope to forgotten equines.
Liberty Sanctuary was founded by Debra West in late 2022.
The organization rescues horses and donkeys from kill pens in other parts of the country.
“We pay their bail,” West said. “They call it bail like these beautiful equines are actually in jail.”
While it is illegal to kill a horse or donkey for meat in the United States, West says kill pens get around the law by shipping animals to slaughterhouses in Mexico or Canada. Then, their meat is shipped to places around the world.
She estimates thousands of healthy horses lose their lives every year due to this practice.
“A lot of this is financial. If someone can make money off the back of a horse they will,” West said.
In 2023, the sanctuary welcomed 17 equines. Many are shy and timid due to the trauma of living in a kill pen.
At the sanctuary, a team of experts will work with the animals to get them ready for adoption. Trevor Howard is the sanctuary’s training director and explained how one horse, “Comanche,” struggles to trust humans and will likely need months of care and trust building.
“It would be really great if he could make a riding horse for someone someday,” Howard said. “He may end up just being a herd animal that can be handled.”
While the sanctuary is able to rescue a handful of animals, there are thousands more across the country that won’t be as fortunate.
West supports the S.A.F.E. Act. The proposed bi-partisan federal legislation would ban the practice of sending horses to international slaughterhouses.
West hopes the bill will gain traction later this year. It is another avenue to give a voice to these animals that have an important place in American culture.
“Horses have been man’s best friend just like a dog,” she said. “They are synonymous with the West and they are synonymous with freedom.”
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