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LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. -- The images alone were enough to make Contact7 take action. Photo after photo of horses sick with a contagious disease and yet somehow allowed with other animals ready for auction. What might shock you is that everything seen is perfectly legal.
Whitney Applegate works hard looking after hundreds of acres of land and all her cows, sheep, a goat and even a donkey, but she has a soft spot for her 22 horses.
She runs Colorado Horse Rescue Network on her property in Larimer County. She purchases horses from auctions that sometimes are in pretty bad shape, hoping to find them permanent homes.
She introduced Contact7 to ponies Carli and Shanaya, both purchased from Centennial Livestock Auction in Fort Collins.
"This eye is atrophied, so it’s sunken in a little bit,” said Applegate. “She was actually at the slaughter lot and had a baby and somebody bought the baby and didn't take her."
She told Contact7 she sees horses and livestock in terrible condition far too often.
"If animal control came to your property, there are consequences for this but you could drop them off at the sale barn, no questions asked," said Applegate. "It’s horrible for me to see an animal that wants to live and could have been helped but somebody neglected it."
She’s not the only one with concerns.
Contact7 received dozens of emails about the auction, and viewers sent pictures of diseased horses with open wounds. By state law, a veterinarian must check all livestock before moving on to a sale, which technically happens only when the animals are in the ring.
"They don't care about animals. They care about the commission they're gonna get," said Applegate, talking about the auction house.
Contact7 reached out the Centennial Livestock Auction and we were told they would not comment on this story.
The Department of Agriculture checked things out and confirmed the in-house vet at the auction had already flagged the mare and foul, not for any disease, but because the young horse was underweight.
The Department of Agriculture state veterinarian confirmed to Contact7 one of the horses was diagnosed with Strangles, a common and contagious disease that affects the upper respiratory tract. The disease is not one of the conditions under law that would ban the horse from being up for auction, but additionally it was not a concern because the veterinarian was able to confirm the infection was in its healing stage. The horses were isolated in pens, for this reason too, as required.
There was nothing illegal or in violation of any regulation, because the horses were never passed to auction. Every horse is evaluated in the pens or the common area and determined if healthy for auction. It is possible the diseased horse was exposed to other horses.
For Applegate, its unethical and that’s enough to keep her from doing business there again.
"If you eat meat, if you eat beef, if you eat lamb, if you eat pork, every animal that goes through the sale ring gets treated the same way, not just the horses," said Applegate.
Centennial Livestock Auction is in good standing with the Department of Agriculture, according to the state veterinarian. It might be tough to see the wounded horses, but the law dictates the animals can be auctioned off, unless they suffer from certain conditions including, but not limited to certain cancers, lameness and specific fractures.