Fourteen of the horses injured in last month’s tractor-trailer crash on Interstate 44 near Washington are continuing to recover from their injuries, according to officials with Longmeadow Rescue Ranch.
Longmeadow, which is a 165-acre animal sanctuary near Union, has secured ownership of the 14 horses.
The ranch said the horses face a long and painful recovery, but the hope is for them to eventually be available for adoption.
“Horses are very forgiving, so even though they have been let down by humans at some point in their lives, they seem eager to get to know people,” Longmeadow Director Amanda Mullen said.
The former owner of the horses was a private individual who confirmed that the animals were being sent to a slaughterhouse, Mullen said.
According to equine industry publications, horse slaughter is “big business” with more than 4.7 million horses slaughtered worldwide in order to produce 1.6 billion pounds of meat. Domestically the largest demand for horsemeat is from zoos and wildlife sanctuaries, as large carnivores — tigers, lions and bears — require a diet of high-quality protein that is easily provided with horsemeat.
Among the byproducts created from horses are glue, violin bows, paintbrushes and fishing line.
The 14 were among 29 horses, all bound for the slaughterhouse, in a tractor-trailer traveling west on I-44 the evening of Oct. 18. Fifteen of the 29 horses survived the accident, in which the tractor-trailer tipped over on its side in the median. Eleven were brought to the ranch and four taken to Homestead Veterinary Hospital for more serious injuries. One of the original 11 was euthanized due to its injuries.
The driver of the vehicle did not suffer major injuries.
The surviving 14 horses have injuries ranging from deep skin and leg abrasions, some of which are infected, to head and eye trauma. Many of the horses also have issues obtained prior to the accident, such as poorly healed broken bones, infections and malnutrition.
Mullen said around five are still in critical condition.
Staff members are spending around 12 hours per day caring for wounds, with two to three of the staffers designated specifically for those horses.
Mullen said only a few staff members were there for the last major crash rescue — when 26 horses survived a double-decker wreck on I-44 in 2006 — and are having to learn how to care for the severely injured animals.
“This is the highest level of time and medical treatments many have seen,” Mullen said.
The ranch, which is affiliated with the St. Louis-based Humane Society of Missouri (HSMO), is asking for donations, as the medical bills for the horses already exceed $20,000. While normally a rescue animal at Longmeadow requires $500 to $700 in initial medical fees, these horses are requiring thrice weekly veterinary visits, more bandaging and even some sedatives for horses with wounds so deep that they resist cleaning. The organization, which as part of HSMO is included in that organization’s annual IRS filing for nonprofit status, relies heavily on donations. It does budget money for care, but Mullen said the ranch had no way of anticipating so significant an expense such as a tractor-trailer crash and will need support.
Although these 14 horses will likely not be available for adoption for some time, Mullen said more than 40 horses and several other animals are awaiting their forever homes. The farm also cares for ducks, chickens and potbellied pigs.
“All our animals were rescued, some of them from even more long-term neglect (than the crash horses),” Mullen said. “They also need a home, and we don’t want them to get overlooked. Some of them have been waiting a long time.”
The complete list of animals available for adoption is online at longmeadowrescueranch.org.