Horse Opera

As one of only three horse rendering plants in the country, Dallas Crown in Kaufman provokes its share of horror stories--and while some are undeniably true, including its abysmal sanitation record with the city of Kaufman, others are harder to prove. Now, though, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture is investigating complaints from an Oklahoma family whose valuable paint horses ended up at Dallas Crown after being auctioned off to a room filled with so-called "killer buyers," people who acquire and sell horses to slaughter houses.

On November 1, 2005, James Edwards sought a temporary restraining order to prevent Dallas Crown from killing more than 30 of his horses, valued at $25,000. The plant had already slaughtered 20 of them, according to the order. A county judge denied the motion, and Edwards' horses are believed to be dead.

Just how they wound up at Dallas Crown is the mystery at hand.

In December, Edwards' wife, Tana, contacted prominent anti-slaughter advocate Sherillyn Flick. The wife said that her family had arranged for North Texas Horse Sales in Whitesboro to auction off her late father-in-law's registered paint horses. Although the auction house was supposed to advertise the auction, only a handful of bidders showed, many of whom were believed to be killer buyers. After a few days, the Edwards family did not receive a print-out of the sale nor had they received their take from the auction. When she contacted an inspector with the Texas Southwest Cattleman's Association, he told her that Dallas Crown received a delivery a few days earlier. She and the inspector drove down to the plant that night.

"I never thought that I would ever be at a place like that. There, standing on concrete, cold, hungry and scared, were 30 of our mares, in foal," writes Edwards in an e-mail Flick shared with the Dallas Observer.

When Edwards spoke to the manager, he told her that he had bought the horses and that he planned to kill them. Edwards left and the family filed the injunction to prevent Dallas Crown from slaughtering the pregnant horses.

In a subsequent interview with the Observer, Tana Edwards declined to retell her story and said that her family's dispute is not with Dallas Crown but with the individuals who sold the horses to the slaughterhouse. From the interview, it's not clear if the family is upset that they haven't been paid or that many of their horses wound up not at a ranch but at a slaughterhouse. Rhonda Williams, who works at a division of USDA that regulates animal auctions, says that the agency is investigating allegations stemming from the Edwards family's complaint.

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Matt Pulle
Contact: Matt Pulle