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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Time to Regulate Auctions

This week, Frank Chick's Standardbred Auction was held on Tuesday at the Delaware State Fairgrounds.  This auction was no Tattersalls or Harrisburg for sure.  One look at the catalog to see who was entered, I could not help but fear the killers would be there to pick up some horses.  After seeing the prices many of these horses brought, I was certain many of these horses were being Amished or heading off to slaughter.

Sure enough, last night at Camelot in New Jersey, a day later, six broodmares which sold at Chick's ended up at the Camelot Auction and were bought by #10, who gives people to the end of the week to purchase these horses off of him for a $50 per horse profit or off they go to Canada for slaughter.  One of the broodmares is a winner of over $350,000 in her career.  One broodmare is 26 years old.  Hopefully, the rescue groups will be able to save these and other horses from heading to slaughter.  The horses probably came from Chick's to Camelot in an effort to make a quick profit as they know rescuers buy up the horses at Camelot to prevent the horses being sent to their death in Canada.  In respect to the proprietor of Camelot, I am not angry; he is merely cleaning up other people's messes and unlike some auctions, he will give rescuers a chance to get the horses bailed out without jacking the prices up too much.

Where I have problem is with standardbred auctions that have no minimum price.  While Harrisburg and Tattersalls horses are for the most part safe, these minor auctions tend to be last chance auctions for standardbreds.  If someone wants to take a chance on a horse that someone else had no luck with, here is your chance to gamble cheaply.  The problem is if no one wants to gamble on a horse, it's likely on its way to death; especially at the cheap prices they can get.

It;s time for the USTA to put an end of these last chance auctions and if not, at least add some protections. 
for the horses.  These are the changes which need to be made.

  • All approved standardbred auction must set a minimum price which makes a horse too expensive for killers to buy.
  • If a USTA member is going to sell a horse at auction it must be through an approved auction.  A USTA member that sells through an unapproved auction may be sanctioned with a suspension or denial of membership privileges.
  • While a horse may be consigned to the auction, the auctioneer must maintain a record of the actual owner of the horse being offered for sale.
  • All approved auctions must list the sales price and the name of the winning bidder or agent.  If results are shown online they must list the complete information.  The winning bidder or agent must maintain control of the standardbred for at least 72 hours.  This will allow rescue groups or others to make a subsequent bid to the purchaser.  Failure of a USTA member to maintain control for at least 72  hours after the auction may result in a suspension or denial of membership privileges.
  • It will be the responsibility of an approved standardbred auction to submit the information necessary to transfer ownership of the horse.  Too many times a horse just 'disappears'.
  • If a USTA member has a horse which does not meet the minimum price at an approved auction twice in a row, the owner will be able to take advantage of a to be developed program to offer subsidized euthanasia of the horse (to be funded with a surcharge on registrations)..
  • Any USTA member who sells their standardbred at an unapproved auction may be denied membership in the USTA.
  • For any horse being sold through private sale, it will be mandatory that the original owner must submit information to the registar showing who the horse has been sold to.  The new owner must also submit the paperwork to complete the transfer of ownership.  If the original or new owner does not complete the transfer process, he will not be allowed to bid at an approved auction.  This will ensure a horse does not get 'lost' and eliminates the excuse "I didn't know what happened".
Some people will say the USTA can't possibly enforce this type of regulation, after all horses are property.  Well no one forces anyone to belong to the USTA; in fact some states will let you race without membership (another problem).  To be a member of the USTA is a privilege and as such  the USTA can set the rules of membership.

What better message can we be sending out to the public that standardbred racing worries about their racing stock.  Owners who spend thousands of dollars a month to keep a horse racing should not be trying to get the last $200 while trying to get rid of a problem.  By having a subsidized program to euthanize horses no one wants for secondary careers, at least we can ensure their deaths are humane and not painful.

It is time to stop saying  "we can't".  Time to say "Why not?" 


Murray Brown said...

Allan, Allan, You are once again giving USTA power that it does not even remotely possess.

USTA has no power over any auctions let alone a right to determine what horse owners can do with their property.

My heart is absolutely with you on this matter, but the practicalities of the situation don't come close to allowing the measures which you are proposing.

From a positive and personal prospective, I need to say that the two entities with which I am connected ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING about this when it occurs on their home turf. Russell Williams who is an owner of both Standardbred Horse Sale Company and Hanover Shoe Farms PERSONALLY bids in every horse that does not receive a minimum bid of $1,000 at Harrisburg. He pays for these horses and then to his everlasting praise, he makes sure that homes are found for them.

Hanover Shoe Farms has a RETIRED group of broodmares numbering over one hundred. These are not neccessarily mares who were either great performers or producers and to which the farm owes great allegiance. These are mares who have outgrown their commercial or reproductive usefullness and need a home for their remaining years. Hanover does sell some mares, but none over the age of fifteen, nor any with any significant physical problems. Providing care and sustinence for over one hundred head of horses does not come cheap. If Hanover was a public corporation or owned by anybody other than three families that guide its operations there is no way that stockholders would accept this substantial expense with no hope of profit.

One more thing I think I need to say about Russell Williams. Buying all of the horses that do not get a bid of $1,000 is the smallest part of what he does. Its the ongoing expense and hundreds of man hours that he expends on finding suitable homes for these horses that speaks loudest about the outstanding humanitarian that he is.

Pacingguy said...

Murray, First of all congratulations of the work Hanover and Russell Williams does for our surplus horses.

Well, if you remember, I talked about a sanctioned standardbred sale. There is nothing that will require an auction to become sanctioned, though it would probably serve them well to do so.

There is nothing in my proposal which would not allow the USTA to register a horse purchased at a non-sanctioned sale.

Yes, I know horses are treated as property and owners are free to do with them as they want. However, membership in the USTA is a privilege, not a right. If one of the responsibilities for membership is treating a horse right, I don't see the problem. Also, in what I don't like, some states don't require membership in the USTA in order to race so it doesn't keep someone completely out of racing.

Years ago the greyhound industry used live rabbits for training their greyhounds. They outlawed that. Under your argument about private property, how could they have done that?

Bottom line is I think the property rights argument is overplayed on this issue by many people as a way to avoid dealing with the issue.

Now That's A Trot! said...

I think some of these are good ideas, but I have no idea how USTA -- or any other sancitioning body -- would even begin to act on them.

As for Russell: I am amazed every time I hear just how much that man -- and Hanover, too! -- gives. I have met and worked with a few very lovely horses who got a second chance because of that $1000 bid. My younger horse was one of Russell's who didn't cut it as a racer, and was adopted out as a riding horse instead of going to auction and hoping for the best. If more breeders stepped up to the plate like that -- I know that some do, but most don't -- maybe we wouldn't need to worry about regulating auction yards.