Horse slaughterhouse: Killing ground or overbreeding solution?

Horse slaughterhouse:  Killing ground or overbreeding solution? »Play Video
UMATILLA COUNTY, Ore. -- If only some horses knew how lucky they really are. Beyond the sounds of the Hermiston Livestock Auction, many horses in our area face an uncertain path; pitting neighbor against neighbor in Smalltown, USA.

It's hard to picture now, but an unassuming field in Umatilla County, near Hermiston, is a hub for controversy.
A group called United Horsemen hope to build a horse care facility in the middle of this field.
The group says it would focus on rehabilitating and adopting out sick animals. Hermiston's mayor thinks it would focus on killing tens of thousands of animals instead.

"I think it's a detriment," says Mayor Robert Severson. "Why do we want to be known as the horse slaughter capital?"

There are no horse slaughterhouses this side of the Mississippi. Up until last fall, you couldn't even sell horse meat. Congress lifted that ban, opening the door for the United Horsemen's plan.

Whether you agree with the slaughtering or not, experts say there is a huge overbreeding problem of horses. In fact, on the Yakama Indian Reservation, there are 20,000 horses that were overbred.

The United Horsemen believe those animals need to be controlled and believe they have a humane way to do it that also creates jobs. Director Dave Duquette told Action News a team of 100 people would try to nurse stray horses back to health. He insists only the most ill horses will be killed.

"The technology nowadays, nobody will know what this facility is... Nobody will tell what it is," he says.

The entire project is far from a done deal. Hermiston has no say in preventing it since the facility would go on Umatilla County land. And leaders there will decide the future of the horses.