SEQUOYAH, Okla. - Two bills making their way through the state Capitol that would legalize horse slaughter for human consumption made significant progress Wednesday.
House Bill 1999 and Senate Bill 375 were both passed in their respective branches late Wednesday
Proponents of the bills say legalizing horse slaughter in Oklahoma would actually improve conditions of some horses across the state.
"We literally have horses running loose like dogs here in the south part of the county, just running on these county roads," said Sequoyah County sheriff Ron Lockhart.
Lockhart says those horses are often turned loose because their owners don't have the money to care for them and don't want to be charged with animal neglect.
"Horse prices right now are down to nothing, if you take a horse to a sale, you may have to pay the auction company to sell the horse," Lockhart said.
The sheriff said the problem is a taxing one for his office, which is tasked with taking the animals in.
People like Robert Ward partner with the sheriff's office to help care for the horses.
"I've been doing this now a little over three years actually," said Ward, who claims to have rescued more than 200 horses over that time.
Ward says that experience has actually placed him firmly in support of the bill.
"I don't see nothing wrong with turning them into dog food but if you're starving them to death, I have a big problem with that," he said.
But Oklahoma animal activist Jamee Suarez says the legislation wouldn't help the state's image.
"I am concerned about Oklahoma's reputation, it would be a black eye to Oklahoma," said Suarez, Oklahoma Alliance for Animals president.
She also has a problem with the act of slaughter itself.
"It's a cruel barbaric way of killing our horses, and horses are considered pets," she said.
Both bills are halfway through the legislative process. If approved, horse slaughter for human consumption would be legal Nov. 1. The meat would be shipped outside the country and not be used in the United States, as the sale of horse meat is currently illegal.