The ABC's of Saving Horses from Slaughter through Starlight!
Thank you for your interest in joining with The Starlight Sanctuary to rescue a horse from impending slaughter. With few exceptions, horses are not bailed and taken to The Starlight Sanctuary, but rather every horse is rescued by an individual or rescue group and goes directly to their new home. Our efforts are unique in many ways and we recognize this is new territory for most people. We encourage you to read this page IN ENTIRETY as it answers most common questions.
- Laura Bell: Founder of the Starlight Sanctuary, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization which serves as a refuge for aged, injured or otherwise hard-to-place animals. Laura has more than 40 years professional experience training and managing horses. Laura maintains a full-time job in addition to managing her sanctuary, on top of spearheading the slaughter rescue efforts. To learn more about Laura's experience, click here.
- The Kill Buyer (“KB”): The KB manages the feedlot in Fallon, NV. This feedlot is owned by Bouvry Exports, a slaughterhouse in Canada and the feedlot is the horses’ last stop before loading onto the slaughter truck. It must be noted the primary business of this feedlot is shipping horses to slaughter, and nothing interferes with that. We never bail/rescue Bouvry's horses; only the horses that the KB has bought and paid for are up for adoption when she allows it.
- Team Starlight: A dedicated group of volunteers who help monitor the Starlight Sanctuary Facebook page by answering questions in support of the rescue efforts.
How it Began:
In October 2012 Laura Bell drove past the Fallon feedlot where she saw 44 beautiful Quarter Horses awaiting slaughter. She approached the KB who allowed her to come in and attempt to rescue the Quarter Horses. Through an intensive social media campaign on Facebook, 44 Quarter Horses and an additional 17 horses from the Kill Pen were saved from slaughter over the next two weeks. The Starlight Sanctuary proved to the KB we were respectful and reliable and thus, a “rescue relationship” was established. The KB has permitted us to rescue horses from slaughter every week since.
The Early Process:
- Each week the KB acquires horses bound for slaughter through public auctions or private purchases.
- On Thursday of each week, the KB sorts the horses and then she and Laura review the horses in the feedlot and determine which horses can be made available for rescue. (Unfortunately, we are not given the opportunity to rescue every horse and there are a variety of reasons a horse may be deemed unadoptable.) The KB informs Starlight Sanctuary of the “bail” (purchase price) of each rescue.
- Laura evaluates the horses to the greatest extent possible. In some cases this is simply observation of ground manners, when possible Starlight Sanctuary pays to have the horses tested under saddle.
- Adoptable horses are then featured on Starlight Sanctuary’s Facebook page www.facebook.com/theStarlightSanctuary. Any horse being rescued MUST have their bail paid to Laura by the following Monday in order to confirm them safe from the slaughter truck.
How to Help/Rescue
- First and foremost the easiest way to help is by networking and sharing the photos. You never know when your share might get into the hands of someone who will rescue a horse. It’s easy. It’s free. It’s entirely painless. It grows our network which in turn SAVES LIVES!
- To rescue a horse: Please private message the following information to the Starlight Sanctuary's page on Facebook: Full name (as you would want it on the brand inspection), Address and Phone Number. Also include a detailed description of the horse as it appears on their photo and a brief bio of yourself including experience and desired usage of the horse. This bio information needs only be a few sentences but is requested so that we can ensure as successful a match as possible for each horse. If you don’t receive an acknowledgement within a few hours, we invite you to email again in order to ensure your email is received. It is also very helpful to express your interest in a comment under the horse’s photo.
- If it is confirmed the rescue is a match, you will be given the option of paying either by credit card or by making a wire transfer and then provided with appropriate information. Bail must be received (we do NOT PayPal for bail) by Monday at 12pm.
- If you want to help rescue a horse by donating toward its bail, dollar amounts less than $200 may sent be PayPal on our Donate page. Please use the "Gift" tab so that you absorb the PayPal fees. It is important you post a comment and/or message Starlight Sanctuary to inform us what horse your donation is helping to bail. Please note that excess funds donated toward the bail of a horse will be directed to another horse in danger.
The Timeline to Rescue
- Facilitating the rescue consumes an extraordinary amount of time and we are often unable to respond to emails or calls immediately. However, we respond at our first availability. Please note that the rescue is being conducted entirely by volunteers with many outside demands placed on our time. We do our best to respond in a timely manner. Your patience is invaluable in the process.
- After Laura provides the KB with the bail fees, Laura then provides the new ownership information to the brand inspector and the ownership is transferred.
- Generally, pick-ups are not allowed Tuesday or Wednesday as it interferes with the prep and transport of that week’s slaughter load.
- Horses staying in the state of Nevada are generally available to be picked up by Thursday.
- Horses going out-of-state require a Coggins and a Health Certificate which is generally in by Friday of the same week. Please make pick-up arrangements within one week of the Coggins being done.
- Appointments MUST be made for pick-up, even if you know where the feedlot is.
- All rescuers are charged $6/day/horse for board beginning the day they would have shipped to slaughter (the Wednesday immediately proceeding the rescue) and increases to $10/day/horse on the 10th day to discourage long-term "feedlot residents."
Immediate Costs of Rescue
- Bail (non-negotiable and set by the Kill Buyer)
- Coggins ($100) if leaving the state of Nevada
- Board ($6/day) beginning the Thursday of each rescue group. For horses STAYING IN Nevada, SEVEN days of board will be automatically be added to cost the of bail as pick-ups generally do not happen before Wednesday afternoon. For horses LEAVING Nevada we will automatically add 10 days of bail since Coggins are not assured back until Friday and horses do not leave until Saturday. If you are picking up your horse after the time periods stated above, you will be expected to pay the difference in board via PayPal prior to picking up your horse.
- Fees. Most banks charge $15-$30 per wire transfer. We can also accept credit cards but the 4% fees must be assumed by the rescuer. Payments for board or miscellaneous expenses may be PayPal'd but must include an additional 2% to cover fees.
Common Questions and Their Answers
Q: How are the bail fees set?
A: All bail fees are set by the KB based on the weight of the horse and market price the horses would get at slaughter. The KB’s employer permits the rescue efforts, so long as they receive the same price on the horse as it would get at slaughter.
Q: How much money does Starlight make on each rescue?
A: One moment while we stop laughing… In all seriousness, Starlight CONTRIBUTES money to each rescue and makes ZERO money on these rescues. Not only do we not add $1 to the bail price set by the Kill Buyer, but Starlight often spends money on feed bills and pays to have many of the horses evaluated.
Q: Then why work through Starlight and not work directly with the KB?
A: While the KB works with Starlight to facilitate the rescues, they are not in the business of rescue. The KB does not work directly with individuals nor do they have the availability to manage a weekly effort of this magnitude. All rescues from this feedlot are conducted exclusively through the Starlight Sanctuary.
Q: How much information do you know about a horse? Do they come with papers?
A: This varies horse by horse. Sometimes the previous owners provide extensive background history and information, and other times they come in with no known information. We share whatever information we have. It is rare a horse comes in papered, but when they do the papers are provided with the horse.
Q: Are there any other costs I should be aware of in addition to the bail fee?
- If the horse is leaving the state of Nevada it requires a Coggins and Health Certificate to be completed. The cost from the veterinarian is $100 and this should be wired to Starlight at the same time as the bail fee.
- The feedlot charges $6/day for boarding at the feedlot (this cost may vary depending on the time of year). It is your responsibility to confirm the cost of your boarding fees prior to rescuing your horse. The balance is required at the time you pick up the horse.
- Additional services such as riding and handling are available at $20 per session. You can discuss with Laura what services your horse might benefit from. Additionally, you may request standard veterinary/farrier care such as worming or trimming. Costs will be provided upon request.
Q: I’m very concerned about my horse staying on the feedlot for even one extra day. Are they safe and taken care of?
A: Horses who have been bailed and are awaiting their trip home are SAFE on the feedlot. In addition they are free fed very high quality hay. But even with the best of care, nothing compares to coming HOME!
Q: I’ve rescued a horse, now how do I get it home?
A: You can visit Starlight Railroad’s page on Facebook. Starlight Railroad is a growing community of people willing to help get rescued horses safely home as affordably as possible. Additionally, we encourage you to network your transportation need on the Starlight Sanctuary in event someone else may be going to your area and you can hopefully share costs. As the network grows we routinely have hauls going toward Northern, Central and Southern California, as well as throughout Nevada, Arizona and Colorado… and sometimes even further!
Q: I can’t adopt, but I can foster. What are the expectations of a foster family? Does Starlight cover expenses?
A: Unfortunately, Starlight Sanctuary cannot cover expenses of the horses with foster families and foster families assume all costs and responsibility.
Q: I donated $100 toward a horse and noticed a few other people did too, and then I see you are still requesting a significant amount of money from a rescuer to save this horse. It seems like double-dipping. What’s up, Starlight?
A: Great question! Funds collected for a horse are used to bail it in event Starlight Sanctuary needs to bail it ourselves and put it into a foster home. Even if we raise enough donations to bail, unless a rescuer is someone we know, can be vouched for by a Team Starlight member, or is close enough to the Starlight Sanctuary that they can go out on a closely monitored feed lease, we do not place horses in homes for free or very, very nominal fees. Unfortunately there are horrible, unscrupulous people masquerading as "good horse families" who get horses for free or nominal fees, fatten them up and then ship to slaughter for a profit. Offering horses for free puts the horses in danger of winding back up in a Kill Yard. We are simply doing our best to ensure that every horse goes to a safe home and our system isn't perfect, but we are trying our BEST to protect these horses while welcoming new and wonderful people into the fold! If funds are donated toward a horse that is ultimately rescued by an individual those funds are directed toward the next horse in danger.
Q: Why do we need to wire funds and why can’t we just PayPal the bail fees?
A: PayPal “locks up” funds for 3-5 days while they clear the bank and we must be able to have the cash in hand in order to pay their bail on time. Money wired is cleared within a few hours.
Q: But I see some people PayPal’ing?
A: Smaller contributions toward bail (under $200), toward non-immediate expenses (such as feed bills) or general donations may be made by PayPal. If you are paying a bill by PayPal, please remember to add 3% to cover Laura’s fees. It may not seem like a large amount for your donation, but it adds up quickly and then the Starlight Sanctuary is left covering costly fees.
Q: I rescued a horse! Now how do I get it home?
A: Transportation is the responsibility of the new rescuer. While Starlight will help connect you with other rescuers in your area, or refer you to haulers we've worked with, it is up to you to handle all of the details.
Q: How can you stand to work with an evil, horrible Kill Buyer who callously sees horses off to the horrific death by slaughter?
A: This is an understandable question, but it is not the truth. The truth is, is that the KB we work with is neither evil nor horrible. This KB goes out of their way to help us with the rescue efforts from start to finish: identifying adoptable horses, helping facilitate evaluation of the horses, spending extra time at the feedlot to oversee pick-ups by rescuers and so on. It would be far easier on the KB to bring the horses in and then ship them off to slaughter, never dealing with a rescue group! While we hate their job, we are exceedingly grateful for the support this KB provides our rescue efforts.
Q: Aren’t you supporting slaughter by buying horses from a KB?
A: This is one of the biggest misconceptions out there! The KB makes ZERO extra money on a horse by allowing it to be rescued. Rescuers pay the same exact amount as they would get for sending it to slaughter. The KB stands to gain nothing by allowing it to be rescued, and in fact goes through a lot of additional hassle when it could have just loaded it onto a slaughter truck.
Q: But… but… you’re supporting the slaughter industry!
A: Again, the KB is going to make the same money whether we rescue or the horse ships. We prefer to see them saved.
Q: Why do you work with a KB and not buy from auction, which would generally save a lot of money?
A: Laura used to rescue more frequently from auctions (and still does on occasion) however, it was not uncommon that the placement would fail. This would happen for a number of reasons: the horses may have been drugged going through auction hiding negative personality traits or possibly injuries, or the lack of ability to handle a horse made it difficult to gauge their true temperament. As Laura was always willing to take the horse back if the placement didn’t work out, the limited space at the Sanctuary made it unfeasible to continue this type of rescue. By rescuing from the feedlot, not only are we able to see a much truer representation of the horses temperaments and personalities, but we have far greater access to handle and evaluate the horses. While we might spend a few hundred more dollars at this phase of the process, it’s ultimately a huge cost savings to ensure the horses are matched appropriately and placements have a greater likelihood of being permanent. Finally, we are truly the horse’s very last chance at life.
Q: Does "Team Starlight" have a motto?
A: Why yes we do, funny you should ask! Our motto is "One horse at a time... and NO HORSE LEFT BEHIND!"
Q: What if I have a question that wasn’t answered here?
A: Then we want to hear from you! We do our best to answer the questions out there! Please email Laura Bell at theStarlightSanctuary@gmail.com and we’ll do our best to answer it.
THANK YOU FOR SAVING A LIFE!