DEAR DR. FOX: You occasionally write good advice for horse owners such as myself. Will you please write something about the cruelty involved in horse slaughter? Thousands of horses are being exported to killing centers, and some people want slaughtering to start up again in the U.S. -- S.J., Parker, Colo.
DEAR S.J.: The year of 2014 is China's Year of the Horse, where the price of horse meat is listed on the nation's consumer price index. In 2013, consumers in Europe were outraged at the discovery of horse meat in their beef hamburgers, some of which probably originated from the United States. The last two government-inspected horse slaughtering and processing facilities were closed in 2007. Still, America's racing, working and pleasure horses are being denied a peaceful end to their lives.
In 2006, a reported 104,899 horses were killed in the U.S. before the slaughter ban. Since the ban, horses have been transported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter, where humane practices are not monitored. In 2010, almost 138,000 horses were transported out of the U.S. to be slaughtered, enduring untold suffering while being collected, corralled, and transported vast distances to be killed and processed, and even being held in beef cattlelike feedlot fattening facilities prior to slaughter.
In a recent public address in the United Kingdom, Princess Anne, a former Olympic equestrian, caused a stir when she said that attitudes to the U.K.'s horse meat trade may have to change in light of the current numbers of horses being abandoned and mistreated. "Should we be considering a real market for horse meat and would that reduce the number of welfare cases, if there was a real value in the horse meat sector?" she asked. My response, having used a stun gun approved for cattle slaughter on horses in an emergency, is that this standard slaughter method used for livestock is not humane, reliable or safe. Mass killing of horses for human consumption can never be humane.
American horse lovers must answer this question and not abdicate their responsibilities to ensure a humane death. The presence of veterinary medications and euthanasia drugs -- in particular from injection-killed horses -- in pet foods is a significant concern.
Thousands of spent horses are being rescued by local animal shelters that are going broke in the process of caring for these animals. This tragedy should not be capitalized upon as a financial opportunity for those who seek to open horse slaughter plants in the U.S., which will only add to the blight across rural America. I urge all concerned persons to contact their legislators immediately to support bills H.R.1094 and S.541, known as the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, to prohibit the sale, transport, import, or export of equines to be slaughtered for human consumption. For more details, visit DrFoxVet.com and vetsforeqinewelfare.org.
DEAR DR. FOX: I buried my beloved cat, Jenny, on Friday. She was a 17-year-old Maine coon with long hair. I believe she had arthritis pain, although my vet's X-ray did not show any abnormalities of the spine or hips. She lost three pounds over six months.
We moved to a condo six months ago, and the owner had the carpets cleaned before renting it to us. Jenny would never sleep in her regular bed after we moved, but preferred to sleep in the hallway on the carpet where it was warm. She constantly groomed herself after we moved here because I think she did not like the smell of the carpet. I wonder if whatever shampoo was used on the carpet was toxic to her.
She vomited almost every day -- not just hairballs, but whatever she had eaten. She also craved water and would jump into the bathroom sink to drink whenever the faucet was turned on, even though she had a water fountain with fresh water. She had copious amounts of urine.
I am heartbroken over losing her. I would like for you to warn your readers about the shampoo they use on their carpets when they have cats. I have no way of knowing what was used on my carpets because it was done before we moved here, but I think it contributed to my cat's illness and death. -- S.C., Rolla, Mo.
DEAR S.C.: My deepest condolences. Losing an old, beloved feline companion can be very distressing -- even more so when you do not know why the animal died.
Some carpet cleaners can contain toxic residues, which the cat can pick up on the paws and fur and then ingest in the process of self-grooming. Steam cleaning and enzyme cleaners on stains are the safest methods. New carpets can be toxic from formaldehyde fumes and flame-retardant bromide compounds that can harm the thyroid gland.
The stress of moving to a new place could also have tipped the scales for your cat and caused chronic kidney disease and stress-associated diabetes to flare up. You should feel no blame for this sad end to your cat's life who, after all, had to move with you and most certainly had a good life under your care.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.com.)