Expert in Thoroughbred Rescue Issues Derby Day Challenge

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On the eve of the 135th Derby in Kentucky, an expert in retraining former race horses for second careers says more thoroughbreds are in danger of going to the slaughterhouse.

Every day we see more and more thoroughbreds sold to be slaughtered

On May 2 some of the world's fastest thoroughbreds will race in Kentucky's annual Derby. Yet Melodee Shelley-Bolmgren, founder of the nonprofit organization Chez Chevaux, which rescues and retrains thoroughbreds, says the rescue of ex-racers has been greatly affected by the recession and today announced the Derby Day Challenge to raise funds to support expanded thoroughbred rescue.

"Every day we see more and more thoroughbreds sold to be slaughtered," Shelley-Bolmgren says. "These are animals that have sometimes earned hundreds of thousands of dollars during their racing careers." She says Chez Chevaux has received record numbers of calls in recent months from horse owners who can no longer care for their animals.

Shelley-Bolmgren says it costs thousands of dollars to care for a horse each year and, unlike cats or dogs, unwanted horses are often shipped to Canada or Mexico to be sold for meat. "What makes this situation even more tragic is that we see so many healthy, young thoroughbreds shipped abroad to be slaughtered," she says. "These are horses that are perfectly able to perform well at second careers as pleasure or show horses."

Like many other nonprofits, though, Chez Chevaux cannot take any more animals without additional funding as pleas for assistance have increased dramatically during the recession. She says even a dollar's contribution can help save their lives.

The Derby Dollar Challenge

The inaugural Derby Dollar Challenge is attempting to raise $135,000 by May 2, in recognition of this year's running of the 135th Derby. Donors can make online contributions to Chez Chevaux . Contributions can be made via check or PayPal and are tax-deductible.

Shelley-Bolmgren says even small contributions from individuals help prevent the killing of thoroughbreds, noting that donors should not feel uncomfortable offering what they consider small amounts. "If enough people contributed even a single dollar to horse charities that would help us save so many animals from certain deaths or starvation," she says.

How to Contribute to the Derby Dollar Challenge

A donation of just a dollar can help save the lives of animals. To take the Derby Dollar Challenge, please go to Chez Chevaux: http://www.chezchevaux.org.

Facts about Horse Slaughter:

  •     During the last few decades, millions of horses have been slaughtered in the U.S. and Canada and their meat exported to Europe and Japan for human consumption.
  •     It is estimated that approximately 15 percent of all slaughter-bound horses in the U.S. were bred for racing.
  •     Some horses such as Ferdinand, the Kentucky Derby champion, have earned millions of dollars during their racing careers before being slaughtered.
  •     Young, sound and purebred horses, as well as those that are infirm and old, are sent to slaughter.
  •     Thoroughbreds and other horses are often shipped up to 30 hours without food or water. When they reach the slaughterhouse, they are driven into a killing factory and bludgeoned with a four-inch bolt gun which drives a spike into their skulls. Their throats are then slit, often while they are still conscious.
  •     Undercover footage has shown horses stabbed repeatedly with puntilla knives, which paralyze them, leaving them twitching on the ground, unable to move or breathe, until they die from suffocation (because their lungs stop working) or from blood loss and dismemberment.
  •     Most horses sold at auction are bought by "killer buyers," middlemen for slaughter plants, and often go straight to slaughter without disclosure or the knowledge of the original sellers.
  •     Very little horse meat is used in dog food; it's too expensive, with some cuts selling for over $20 per pound.

Chez Chevaux rescues and retrains thoroughbreds. Founded by noted horsewoman, Melodee Shelley-Bolmgren, Chez Chevaux operates to retrain at-risk thoroughbreds, saving them from abuse and slaughter. Chez Chevaux is a 501C-3 nonprofit, which can be found on the Web at http://www.chezchevaux.org. Melodee is a frequent speaker at events such as The Homes for Horses coalition http://www.homesforhorses.org/ and has received numerous grants from groups such as the ASPCA and Thoroughbred Charities of America. A video detailing Melodee's efforts in rehabilitating a starving thoroughbred can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ddYDd8Lymw.

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Jill Fraser
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