The border between Arizona and Mexico is seeing some unusual victims of the drug trade that is very prevalent here. Horses, often young and badly abused, are the latest victims the drug trade is claiming in large numbers. Horses are an essential part of industry like farming that involves the movement of heavy goods.
In the drug trade these hapless animals often play an important role. Drug dealers from Mexico often use them to move heavy loads of marijuana across the borders. Once the border is crossed and the goods reach Arizona, the horses are divested of their burden and left to wander on their own. The journey is usually an inhospitable one and the animals are further mistreated thanks to starvation and a crucial lack of water. Activists say sometimes the bit put in their mouths often slice their tongues apart and their feet, improperly shod, become just masses of dead tissue. Often the animals are so weak they have to be carried into rehab centres.
Officers from the Arizona Department of Agriculture say often 15 to 20 horses a month are often found, sick, with obvious signs of mistreatment and very poorly equipped to travel the distance with heavy loads. Often they have huge sores on their back attesting to the heavy loads carried without being properly protected against the chaffing. Being found doesn't ensure happier times. Since the horses have signs that they have come from over the border and don't belong to Arizona, they have to be tested so that they don't spread disease to livestock. Then they are auctioned and while some find homes most of the others are taken off to Mexico to be killed.
Most of these animals are usually brought cheaply or stolen. As helpers and volunteers from the Arizona Equine Rescue Organization, the highly specialized health centre for rescue horses that require intensive medical care, say, the horses are worked beyond capacity before being sent across the border. Rehabilitation is time consuming and expensive process. Mostly the problems, the animals develop, never really go away. The only hope lies in the resilience of these animals, say activists, who can endure a lot and still bounce back.