“She’s dead anyway”
Pennsylvania authorities are investigating the death of a horse at New Holland Sales Stables. Individuals described as “kill buyers” allegedly kicked the down horse’s frail body prior to the animal’s death Monday.
Kaley Pannone, of Lenhartsville, says the alert, sweet white mare caught her attention Sunday. Pannone was at the New Holland horse auction videoing horses. She stopped and petted the big-eyed mare while looking her over. “I was thinking about saving her. I thought about how I would feed this little mare if she were to come home with me.”
Pannone wasn’t able to go to the auction on Monday but says she felt confident another rescue would save the mare.
Pannone opened Willow Creek Horse Rescue in November. The rescue is in the process of becoming a 501(c)(3) she says.
Pannone and her friend returned late Monday to pick up a horse from the auction for quarantine. She says they noticed a commotion on the loading dock. As she and Marissa Sensenig, of Lancaster, got closer they saw a white horse on the ground.
They witnessed three men, reportedly kill buyers, pushing and kicking the horse, but the animal was unable to rise. Still alive, the mare was moving her legs.
Pannone offered to take the horse, but says she was told by one of the men, “she’s dead anyway.” It was then she realized it was the same white mare she considered saving the day prior.
Pannone describes herself as “heartbroken”.
The women witnessed the kill buyers load a palomino and Belgian Draft horse, which ran “over the little white mare who was down.”
“When I got to her, she was very much alive,” Pannone adds. The mare was shaking uncontrollably and gasping for breath.
Pannone spoke gently and caressed the mare’s sweaty, lathered coat. “I felt her heartbeat under my hand.” Before the delicate animal gasped her last breaths, her eyes softened. Both women were with her as she died.
The men left the auction premises with their loaded semi-trailer of horses before the mare died. The horse’s body remained on the loading dock.
Lancaster County Detective Joanne Resh tells us the criminal investigation is being handled by the Pennsylvania SPCA. Due to the active case, she declined to comment further.
Authorities sent the mare’s body for a necropsy, according to Pannone.
District Attorney Craig Stedman has spoken candidly in recent months regarding his commitment to animal cruelty reform in Lancaster County.
“As a human being, how can you not feel any emotion,” Sensenig asks after witnessing the ordeal. “I felt sick.”
Some have questioned Pannone’s decision not to buy the mare when she had the chance. She says she made the decision because she was low on funds. Rescuing horses takes fiscal responsibility, not just compassion to make a difference.
Pannone was quick to point out that a horse’s purchase price is the cheapest part of ownership. She encourages horse owners not to send their horses to auctions. “They rely on you, you can’t fail them. It’s not worth the small amount of money you get from it. Most of these horses won’t go to a good home.”
Horse owners have alternative solutions when needing to rehome their horses including surrendering them to a reputable horse rescue or choosing humane euthanasia.
“Kill buyers will never treat animals with respect, they will never care, but doing what we can when we see it, may help,” Sensenig stresses.
Story update: To our knowledge, nothing came of any “investigation” into this mare’s death.
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