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Kim Winnegge, Published January 24 2009

Plant may slaughter horses under North Dakota bill

A plan being advanced in the North Dakota Legislature likely will upset some horse enthusiasts and animal rights activists.

Two state legislators are sponsoring a bill that could lead to construction of the nation’s only horse slaughterhouse in North Dakota.

Rep. Rod Froelich, D-Selfridge, and Sen. Joe Miller, R-Park River, are sponsoring House Bill 1496, which would direct the Commerce Department to conduct a $100,000 study to see if a privately owned horse slaughterhouse is viable in North Dakota.

“Lots of constituents were begging us to do this, saying give us an alternative to what we have now, which is nothing,” Froelich said.

The study would assess the cost of construction, the nature and scope of markets the plant could sell to, and if such a project could be accomplished under current regulations, according to a news release.

In 2006, the U.S. House passed the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, which banned slaughtering horses. It died in the Senate.

Froelich said the $100,000 cost was just a figure they came up with to highlight that there would be a financial piece to the puzzle.

“Equine processing facilities provide a valuable resource for those who have animals that are no longer needed for recreational, farm or racing uses,” Froelich said in a news release announcing the proposed study.

The study would be conducted during the 2009 to 2011 interim.

Legislators will have a chance to help the state become the only one to offer these services, Miller said.

Miller said the last two “equine processing facilities” in Texas and Illinois closed in 2007, leaving open the U.S. market for horse slaughtering.

“They were shut down due to activists in the area,” Miller said. “(They provided) false or circumstantial information, misconstruing what really goes on.”

Calls to several animal rights groups for comment went unanswered Friday.

North Dakota horses ready for rendering now have to be shipped to Mexico or Canada, Miller said, which is costly.

A rendered horse can provide horse meat, gelatin, glue, pet food and leather products, Miller said.

Froelich said the legislation will help provide another economic resource for North Dakota.

“We have a lot of equine that are being abandoned now, not taken care of,” he said. “We have to find someplace for animals to be taken.”

Miller said the point of the proposed legislation is to humanely dispose of those animals that have “worn out their usefulness.”

“We’re going to get to a point where horses will be running around like deer,” he said. “That’s something we need to control.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kim Winnegge at (701) 241-5524