Thirty horses on way to slaughter die in New York trailer fire

Equine Welfare Alliance

May 7, 2013 – Equine Welfare Alliance

EWA (Chicago) – An estimated 30 horses died in a truck fire on I-81 in Lisle, PA Monday night. According to police the truck was driven by Clarence Phelps of Watertown, but the owner of the horses was kill buyer Bruce Rotz. When contacted about the accident by Equine Welfare Alliance, Rotz indicated he would have no comment, saying only “if it burned it burned.”

Local reports say the truck caught fire and the driver stopped but neither he nor first responders were able to extinguish the flames. No reason was given for keeping the horses trapped in the trailer as it burned. The truck was pulled over in New York on March 13, 2013 and ordered out of service until repairs and maintenance could be performed. Nine violations were noted in 2011, one of which was a discharged or unsecured fire extinguisher.

The horses were reportedly destined for the Viande Richelieu Meat, Inc. slaughterhouse in Massueville, Quebec.  Local reports misidentified the destination as a “rendering plant”, an operation that recycles dead animals and animal products into protein based compounds. Richelieu is not a renderer but a plant that slaughters horses for their meat.

Rotz routinely buys horses from the weekly New Holland, PA horse auction and other sources and delivers them to Canada for slaughter for human consumption. For its part, the Richelieu plant has been involved in multiple scandals.

In February of 2010, the Richelieu plant was embroiled in controversy when anundercover videowas released showing horses being shot multiple times with a 22 caliber, bolt action rifle. The images of the horses struggling after improperly placed shots, while the shooter casually walked back and forth to a table to reload his rifle, were seen around the world.

More recently, Canadian slaughter houses, which depend on the US for an estimated 60% of the horses they slaughter, came under scrutiny when testing showed horses carcasses contained the banned substance phenylbutazone.

The meat from Canadian horse slaughter houses is sold mostly in the EU, where horse meat has been found in a wide variety of products marked as “beef” since January.

Over 59,000 US horses were slaughtered in Canada in 2012 according to the USDA. Federal legislation is pending that would ensure our food supply and exports to foreign countries remain safe by banning the “sale or transport of equines or equine parts” in interstate or foreign commerce for human consumption.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has stated on several occasions the need for Congress to find an alternative to slaughtering horses.


John Holland  540.268.5693

Vicki Tobin 630.961.9292

  • Gracemarie Elliott

    Bruce Rotz you will burn in HELL one day and I will be watching

    “No reason was given for keeping the Horses trapped in the Trailer while it burned”

    Could it be to collect “Insurance Money?”

    May 8, 2013
    • Judy Lane

      Or was it to hide evidence of Mustangs with BLM brands??

      May 8, 2013
    • Doraine Van lew

      Exactly, Gracemarie! These people are totally depraved and soul-less! They have no concern for anything or anyone but themselves and how much money they can grab! Sick and despicable and should be in jail!

      May 8, 2013
    • Christy

      Now he gets to collect the insurance money on the trailer and the “30 beautiful show horses who tragically perished.” Rotz wins this one.

      May 8, 2013
      • Gracemarie Elliott

        He should be arrested and have to do Jail Time working to pay his way and No Collecting Insurance Money..

        This kind of thing happens all the time ,

        I personally Know for a fact of a Person who is a “Lawyer” who burned his whole barn of Horses Down to do just this …”collect insurance money”–

        And he got AWAY with it!

        Failed Justice in America.

        Burning Innocent Show Horses Alive along with the Barn and collecting Lots of $$$

        May 8, 2013
  • rosette hoda

    Why does congress have to find an Alternative to horse slaughter? When they can just say NO! No more.. we dont what this! Slaughtering horse is just unethical.. they have served man for many centuries and this is what we are doing to them? Shameful! And shame on that heartless poor excuse for a president Obama for signing horses to their deaths! Its like a free for all in this country. To be shipping our horses to Canada and Mexico.. for slaughter. Such a horrifying reality. Enough is enough, when will we start to say No to these rich and greedy cattlemen? Why does the need for corporate wealth and take over exceed our need for humane life on earth? Disgusted with the people in power and the decision makers in this country! I don’t want horses to be slaughtered and nor does any one else. Its obvious that this Death dealer who owns the trailer purposefully set it on fire to collect insurance! When will authorities take serous action against these criminals who are profiting from taking away these innocent lives? As a citizen, I am truly disgusted with our system.. truly shameful

    May 8, 2013

      You can’t blame Obama for this. Language was taken out by a few members of Congress who support horse slaughter. Get to the bottom of it please. You’ll find out. Just like the Burns Amendment, it was slipped through under the radar. Obama signed a blanket not an individual bill.

      May 8, 2013
    • Doraine Van lew

      Rosetta – you are right!! Another thing that needs to happen is we need to get some control on how many horses are bred each year. The Thoroughbred industry contributes thousands of horses to the slaughter pipeline each year. Horses that don’t run fast enough, nurse mare foals that are “disposable”, injured and abused horses over treated with drugs to make them run…. along with the Quarter Horse industry, the Standardbred industry and backyard breeders who think foals are cute but don’t have a clue what to do with them once they grow up! If we need to legislate a conscience, then so be it!

      May 8, 2013
    • Gracemarie Elliott

      Why, Because Our Justice System is Totally Corrupt.

      It’s all about Greed, Control, Power and Money…

      Nothing to do with Justice

      Except for a “Few Good Men and Women” and there are some Good Ones.

      Those are the “Officers of the Law” Lawyers, and Judges that we need to be working with.

      The Humane Society of the United States Legislative Fund Does Just this and has made thousands of Changes for the better.

      With their help, and God’s …we can turn this whole nightmare around.

      It’s not just in Tennessee. It’s the BLM running Wild Horses to their Deaths. It’s In Texas where they play hurtful and sick games with horses….It’s BIG in the RACE Horse Industry too…Those Horses mostly end up on the dinner plates of Russians via Canada.

      I am beginning to despise Quebec, Canada.

      If you can give even FIVE Dollars to The Humane Society’s Legislative Fund it would make a Tremendous Impact.

      I want to see an end to Horse slaughter and Transport, Abuse and I want to end Factory Farming or Agribusiness as it exists today.

      Animals need to live like they did back in the 50’s and 60’s –Free Range, Not Fed Antibiotics to Plump them Up making them Fatter for Market Faster, and Not giving them three different types of GMO–or Growth Horomones.

      Agribusiness is KILLING Americans. Four Year olds are getting Diabetes!

      People are having Quadruple Heart Bypasses, because of Clogged Arteries–and

      Dying of Pancreatic Cancer, and Prostate Cancer and all cancers because of these things that are in the foods Agribusiness..Big Agribusiness Feeds America to Line their Pocketbooks.

      May 8, 2013
  • John

    2 words: blood profit. Nothing will change untill people wake up, and realize there’s more in the world than all the electronic distraction CRAP, and then receive the miracle of developing a conscience and the will to act

    May 8, 2013
  • Arlette

    Selfish and sorry SOB… Mr. Rotz, (how ironic is your name),your greed will surely send you STRAIGHT TO HELL! OBAMA – wake up and do what’s right to save one of this country’s God given legacies!!!

    May 8, 2013
  • Mary Anne Gardner

    Poor excuse, wake up! So sad!

    May 8, 2013
  • Marcia

    This was awful beyond words. Something similar happened to cows in Indiana some time ago because the idiot of a driver was texting and had an accident. Of course, he survived.

    May 8, 2013
  • Jeannie Baggett

    Rotz livestock frequents an auction near me that I have rescued several horses from. In January I went to the sale and found a whole pen full of beautiful young thoroughbreds. Upon closer inspection they all were lip tattooed. I asked around to find out who the owner was, as I would have been willing to rescue atleast one. I got pointed in the direction of Mr. Rotz and he informed me that those horses were not for sale and he wouldn’t sell one to me for a million dollars. I thought this rather fishy considering this was a horse auction so I went home and investigated. If you search rotz livestock you can find a load of scandal. Rotz was known to buy thoroughbreds from a lady posing as a “rescue” for racehorses. She takes the racehorses on the pre-tense that she will be adopting them out to good homes, but instead sells them to Rotz to ship to slaughter. It was any wonder he wouldn’t sell me one of those thoroughbreds that day. It made me sick to know the destiny of such beautiful animals and to be completely helpless to the situation.

    May 8, 2013
    • Gracemarie Elliott

      OMG…send this to the FBI Press Office

      May 8, 2013
  • Susan Setzke

    Again and again we see and hear examples of the atrocities and practices associated with horse slaughter. Can we say it often enough and loud enough, we want a ban on horse slaughter and we want it now. Then, we want all the people responsible for the corrupt and dirty dealings behind it to be held accountable. We must then create and implement better and proper horse ownership and breeding practices and take responsibility and accountability for our horses to ensure their well-being and preservation.

    May 8, 2013
  • Nancy B

    There are already many excellent comments here. I too would like to know why the trailer doors weren’t opened and the horses released?! Other than being cold, sick, insenesitive, sadistic and f***ing crazy SOBs, it would have to be the insurance. And quite possibly hiding the ones with Mustang Brands as Judy Lane suggested.

    I shudder to imagine the horror those horses experienced. And to know there were people who were there, watching and listening as thirty souls literally burned to death, never opening the door to let those horses out. That in and of itself is a crime! And what of the first responders? Why didn’t they open the doors? If they arrived early enough to attempt to put out the flames then why didn’t they open the trailer doors? Were all 30 horses already dead? Absolutely horrible!

    What’s next?!

    May 8, 2013
    • Nancy B

      The depth of callousness and disconnect it would take to witness the screaming and suffering as 30 horses are burned alive and do absolutely nothing is just so horrific! It’s sickening beyond words. All of this craziness has to be stopped!

      May 8, 2013
      • Sue

        The screams….that’s immediately what I heard when I read the article. I see that you have addressed this. My horses love me so much, as I love them, and cannot imagine the terror of these poor horse souls as they burned.

        May 9, 2013
  • Deborah Vercammen

    He has to be prosecuted for 30 counts of animal cruelty and be jailed. Why isn’t he in jail? Who is letting this piece of shit walk around. If anyone did this to dogs he would be in jail now. NEW YORK grow some balls.

    May 8, 2013
  • Nancy R

    Absolutely sickening that no one bothered to open the trailer doors! I shudder to think of the commotion inside as the horses tried to get out, possibly trampling each other. What could possess those people to be so cruel to innocent horses?? When it says the truck was pulled over in March as it needed to be fixed, does that mean the driver knew that the truck could or would malfunction on the long trip?

    May 8, 2013
  • sherriey

    altho i live in NY….all the info here wasn’t posted in our local news. there are a lot of differences in the total story.

    so so sad. my heart cries for those poor innocent souls that suffered needlessly.

    there is a place in Hell for people like them.

    the good folks here have said it all. not much to say. its bothered me deeply all day and i’ve shed many tears.
    the only logical reason on why no body opened the trailer was that the driver and first responders were afraid to let them out on the busy highway that they were parked beside

    May 8, 2013
    • sherriey

      (sorry i got cut off before i was finished)

      for fear that they would run into traffic and cause multiple car accidents.
      this told to me by a fireman.

      may God love them…they are in far better hands then they were here.

      May 8, 2013
  • Christy

    I keep reading comments on how the driver and/or Bruce Rotz should be arrested. For what? Unfortunately, what Mr. Rotz is doing is not illegal. People keep saying he should be in jail. For what? Transporting horses to slaughter is legal. He’s done nothing wrong “LEGALLY.” The only thing they may get him on is if the trailer had not been repaired since it’s last violation. If it was, there is absolutely nothing on which Bruce Rotz can be arrested. Sadly, we can’t arrest people for being narcissistic assholes.

    May 9, 2013
  • It has all been said in the previous comments. But what else can be done to stop the shipment of horses for slaughter to other countrie? We all know when it comes to greed there is no logic. This has always been the “American” way. Just let them burn!!! How cruel!! Leave a dog in hot car and see how fast you get in trouble and your windows broken. As this should happen. Do these people not know that they shall die and leave everything they have schemed,cheated and lied to get “right here”. It drives me crazy.

    May 9, 2013
  • We’re gates in place every 10 feet and closed?
    Was there a ramp to unload the horses?
    Was there 2 doorways not on the same side & wide & high enough for safe ingress & egress?
    Was there non skid flooring?
    Enough ventilation for 30 horses?
    Is Rotz licensed in PA as a dealer & hauler?
    Does he have records of every horse purchased?
    Were all the horses on the trailer body score 4 or higher?
    Were all the horses sound?

    If the answer is “no” to any of those questions then there is a lot Rotz can be arrested for under NY & PA laws.

    May 9, 2013
  • Linda Parker-Fedak

    I am sickened beyond belief! The laws of this state and our country are so screwed up! This coward needs to be thrown in jail, the company he drives for needs to be shut down, and our President needs to be more informed on what he is signing! The lack of humanity in this country regarding animals and especially “slaughter” animals is despicable!!! Horses should NOT be sold for slaughter! We as a people should stand up and say NO MORE!!! Reduce breeding, stop the roundups! There are things that can be done! My heart aches for those poor innocent horses inthat trailer! And yes, I heard the screams also…

    May 9, 2013
  • Dawn Jeronowitz

    Why would the driver not open the door and release the horses to prevent the horror of them burning to death??? Whenever a fire breaks out, one always tries to save the lives… opening the door should have been the first thing he did. Disgraceful. Criminal.

    May 10, 2013
  • John

    As much of a shame this is, I find it interesting that those who clammer the most againist slaughter are the same ones when I need their help in homing a retired horse, DONT HAVE ANY ROOM and when we ran a Rescue. DID NOT HAVE ANY MONEY.

    I call them hypocrites.

    May 10, 2013
    • Because the moment Rotz bought those horses they were as good as dead.
      Why would you, a businessman, turn horses $400.00 or less, loose on the Interstate where the panicked & terrified horses, some of them on fire, are going to run headlong into traffic?
      Remember, they have no halters & a 3-4′ jump off the back of that trailer.
      Horses escaping from burning horse vans have caused fatal accidents. The difference was those horses were valued in the high 5-6 figure range, not the low 2-3 figure range.
      Compassion plays no part as these dealers deal strictly in $.
      Slaughter is about MONEY.

      May 15, 2013
  • kathy

    A tragic accident. But society needs to change it’s views on horse ownership beginning with the backyard horse. Children should NOT make the decision to buy horses, it should be a family decision with the care ultimately falling in the hands of the responsible adult for the life of the pet. You don’t get rid of it because you want a better one! If the parent is unwilling to provide life care..then the child can satisfy their horse “fix” by volunteering at a rescue. kids lose interest or go to college and the horse sits and becomes unsaleable. Off he goes to auction. If we can’t be responsible for our pets, how can we expect someone to be responsible for a commodity?

    July 10, 2013