Some fear Kline Creek horses were sold to slaughterhouse
After spending much of their lives working at Kline Creek Farm in West Chicago, two senior horses -- Annie and Buddy -- on March 18 were loaded onto a trailer, driven more than 160 miles to a draft horse auction in Indiana, and sold to a single buyer for $950.
What happened to the animals next is unknown.
Officials with the DuPage County Forest Preserve District -- who formerly owned the horses -- say they have no reason to believe anything bad happened to Annie, 21, and Buddy, 27.
DuPage horse enthusiasts, however, are fearing the worst.
"Kill buyers do attend horse auctions," said Jane Muklewicz of Naperville, who defined a kill buyer as someone who purchases horses to ship them to a slaughterhouse. "I was told directly by the owner and also the manager of the Topeka (Indiana) auction that kill buyers do attend their auction."
Speaking Tuesday to forest preserve commissioners, Muklewicz said it's "highly probable" Annie and Buddy were purchased by a kill buyer because of their age, condition and differing breeds.
"The fact they were both bought together is extremely disturbing," said Sue Wedryk of Wheaton.
As a result, Wedryk and other residents said they want the district to ban the sale of any of its retired horses at auction.
Forest preserve President Joseph Cantore said he's committed to finding out what happened to Annie and Buddy.
"I want to make sure they were auctioned to someone who is going to treat them like the board intended for them to be treated," Cantore said. "We want those horses to be treated humanely."
The controversy comes two years after the district revised its horse adoption policy in response to concerns raised by volunteers from Danada Equestrian Center in Wheaton. But officials say those changes only applied to horses from Danada -- not Kline Creek.
For decades, horses at Kline Creek in West Chicago have been sold at auction once they reached a certain age. On Tuesday, the district's attorney said the policies were followed when Annie and Buddy were sold.
Still, Glen Ellyn resident Joan Sekerak said the sale of the horses was akin to a pet owner dropping off his senior dog at a pet shelter.
"This decision was unconscionable and cruel in my opinion," said Sekerak, adding the horses deserve better. "I hope that in the future this will never happen again."
Cantore said he will look into all the concerns raised by the residents.
"If there is substance to their concerns, I'm going to get to the bottom of it, and we're going to do our best to fix it," Cantore said. "Whatever needs to be fixed, we will fix."
In the meantime, Sekerak said she believes the district has the resources to take proper care of its senior horses.
Juliana Holubetz of Downers Grove said the district should at least find suitable new homes for its horses that retire.
"They served the district for many years," Holubetz said. "They should look forward to a retirement in a nice, comfortable way and not have to be sent off to someplace where we don't ultimately know what happened to them."