New: 16 horses headed to Cavel are killed in trailer crash on I-44

Wed. Sep. 27, 2006

By Tim O'Neil - St. Louis Post-Dispatch

A semi trailer filled with horses on their way from Oklahoma to Cavel International slaughter house in DeKalb left Interstate 44 on a curve in Franklin County, Mo., early today and ended up on its side in the median.

Officials say 26 of the 42 horses in trailer survived but nine had to be put down and the other seven died at the scene of the accident.

Earlene Cole of the Humane Society of Missouri said she got a call from the Franklin County sheriff's office about 3:15 this morning alerting her to the accident, which had occurred about 15 minutes earlier 2 miles east of Staunton.

Cole said she put into action an emergency rescue plan that had been drawn up earlier but had never been used on this scale before. Fire departments from Sullivan and St. Clair, an animal search and rescue team from Eureka and others responded to the scene of the accident.

When they arrived, all of the horses were still in the semi. Firefighters cut the roof open and set up an emergency pen with portable livestock fencing in the westbound lane of the highway, which was closedto traffic. The first eight horses walked out fine, but others had to be removed with ropes and straps, Cole said.

The surviving horses were taken to an arena at the St. Clair Saddle Club, where veterinary personnel were working on them. The highway was reopened to traffic about 11 a.m.

Cole said she did not know what would happen to the horses that survived. She was looking for places for them to stay until their status is cleared up.

“The Highway Patrol made them our responsibility,” she said. “The Humane Society is footing the bill for all of this. We are looking into the legalities as we go along.”

In a statement Wednesday, Cavel said even though the horses were bound for the slaughterhouse, "where they would have been euthanized under the supervision of federal inspectors and USDA veterinarians," the horses belong to the horse trader who bought them until they reach the plant.

Cavel said the driver was taken into custody on outstanding warrants, and that company officials were disappointed he'd allegedly been in violation of USDA transportation regulations.

The U.S. House three weeks ago voted to outlaw slaughtering horses for people to eat. The measure still needs action by the Senate.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Full details in Thursday's Chronicle.