Horses from New Orleans Mardi Gras parade up for adoption — rescue program saves them from slaughter

Mardi Gras is a day of big celebrations for many people, but it hasn’t always been such a happy occasion for horses: for years, many horses used in the New Orleans Mardi Gras parade have reportedly been sold for slaughter.

But that gruesome reality has changed in recent years, and now those horses are being placed up for adoption.

Mardi Gras was on Tuesday, and many traveled traveled down to New Orleans for the famous, lavish festivities and parades.

NEW ORLEANS, LA – MARCH 1: The Butterfly King float rolls down St. Charles Avenue on Mardi Gras Day as the 440 riders of Rex, King of Carnival, celebrate their 150th year with a 26-float parade entitled School of Design Sesquicentennial on March 1, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Parades returned to the streets of New Orleans for the 2022 Carnival season after being cancelled last year due to the COVID pandemic. (Photo by Michael DeMocker/Getty Images)

But these celebrations often ended in a grim fate for the many horses who were brought to the Big Easy for the parades: according to the Humane Society of Louisiana, it wasn’t uncommon for these animals to be sold for slaughter as soon as the party died down.

“Several years ago, we began receiving reports that some of the parade horses, still distinctive with glitter and decorations from Mardi Gras, were spotted en route to slaughter in Mexico,” Jeff Dorson, the humane society’s founder and executive director, told WAFB/Gray News.

The Humane Society’s website says that while many of the parade’s horses are privately owned by riding clubs, about 20 a year are purchased from horse brokers shortly before Mardi Gras, and are then sold back to the broker after carnival. These unwanted horses are then often sold for slaughter.

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – FEBRUARY 12: Lieutenants on horseback lead the Krewe of Proteus parade during 2024 Mardi Gras on February 12, 2024 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Erika Goldring/Getty Images)

“These discarded horses all arrive at the stables, homeless and unwanted, with an uncertain fate ahead of them,” the Humane Society of Louisiana wrote.

In response, the Humane Society established a special adoption program devoted to finding homes for these Mardi Gras parade horses.

“Once we became aware of this heartbreaking reality behind the pageantry, we mobilized to ensure that the parade horses would no longer endure this cruel fate,” they wrote.

Established in 2017, the program has been successful, finding homes for 77 horses within their first four years of operation (celebrations in 2021 were canceled due to the pandemic, so their work skipped a year.)

With this year’s Mardi Gras celebrations wrapping up, the 2024 parade horses are now looking for homes. The available horses up for adoption can be found on the rescue program’s official Facebook page.

All the horses are located in the New Orleans area and adopters are responsible for transport. The adoption fees range from $800 to $1,300.

The adoption program also emphasizes that the horses should only be taken in by experienced, responsible horse owners, saying that these are “rescue horses” and not “first-time owner horses,” and encouraging adopters to work with a trainer.

Interested adopters can fill out an application form online, which asks for three references and details about the adopter’s experience with horses.

We’re so glad this adoption program exists to keep these beautiful horses out of the slaughterhouse — we hope they all find amazing homes soon!

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