COOKEVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Nearly two dozen horses and donkeys are getting second chance at life after they were rescued in a horse auction in Cookeville Tuesday night. Many could have been sold to slaughterhouse scouts if it weren’t for the Horse Plus Humane Society.

“There’s hundreds every single week and many of those horses come from Tennessee and are exported to Mexico for human consumption, after they’re slaughtered in the slaughterhouse,” said the organization’s founder Tawnee Preisner, “It’s terrible. We all love horses, we wouldn’t think that, you know, verses from Tennessee are being exported for slaughter but it happens a lot.”

Preisner said these horses were likely sold from breeders or summer camps who couldn’t afford to feed them.

One of the 22 horses and donkeys rescued in a Cookeville horse auction Tuesday. Photo credit: Horse Plus Humane Society

“This one was in Cookeville, Tennessee, we rescue a lot of horses out of there. It’s a pretty big auction where horses are purchased, you know by the highest bidder so if that highest bidder is a kill buyer, those horses can be exported into Mexico or Canada for slaughter.”

A horse that would be bought for slaughter would be around $400 dollars, sometimes more, sometimes less. If a horse auctions for much more than that, Preisner is certain it is not going to a slaughter house.

According to USDA data, 60 horses were transported from Texas to Mexico for slaughter on Friday alone, a total of nearly 2,000 transported year to date.

“In California, it’s actually a felony to export horses for slaughter out of the state,” Preisener explained, “Here in Tennessee it’s, it’s a legal business for somebody to go buy horses for slaughter and take them down to Texas to be exported.”

Wednesday morning, the humane society loaded up 19 of the animals they bought to be rehabbed at the shelter in Hohenwald and then put up for adoption.

“This one right next to me. You can see kind of a show where her ribs are, and then her spine,” she showed News 2.

Three horses went to the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture in Knoxville refeeding program to hopefully, ultimately, give them a second chance at life, while establishing research to help save many more malnourished horses.

Sometimes, the humane society buys horses that are so malnourished, they can’t be saved, and have to be humanely put down with euthanasia.

“It’s just really devastating, having to step into the shoes of an owner that walked away… is never easy for us.”

While the Horse Plus Humane Society does not target legislation, they do support the SAFE Act which has been discussed for more than a decade, but never passed.

There are still many organizations fighting for it. including ASPCA and the Animal Welfare Institute.

“Hopefully someday we’re not needed to rescue horses anymore and there’s no more dog and cat rescues,” Preisner said.

If you’d like to get involved you can help name each one of these horses and donkeys by commenting on their Facebook page posts or adopt one once they have been rehabbed and quarantined for 30 days.

The humane society is able to purchase horses around the country through donations. If you’d like to donate, click here.