Written by: Heather Clemenceau
Everyone knows that abuse, neglect, and disease are embedded in the trading of horses by unscrupulous buyers and flippers, beginning with the kill buyer and ending with the killing process. But despite the number of sick or suffering feedlot and broker horses documented on Facebook, few purchasers contact authorities to report abuse, neglect, or contractual fraud. Some people even choose to protect the kill buyer while praising him (or her) in being so kind as to offer to sell them the horse in the first place. Quite understandably, many people may reasonably be afraid of further alienating the kill buyers and brokers and being unable to purchase more horses. But in March, two plaintiffs initiated a civil litigation against kill buyer Don Nowlin of Washington-based Outwest Livestock, alleging the torturous September 2016 death of “Brad Pitt”, an approximately 20-year-old thoroughbred stallion they purchased in August of that year.
In the Statement of Claim, the plaintiffs alleged that the conditions at the feedlot were heart-rending – horses “bore significant injuries, such as fist-sized scabby wounds, a pregnant mare bleeding from her vagina, a horse with a broken leg and overgrown hooves…” Before the plaintiffs could collect Brad Pitt, they were told that he had broken his back leg and was “put down” via a “cocktail” and “hit the ground” within thirty seconds, all evidently without veterinarian oversight. The plaintiffs had the forethought to insist upon taking the remains of the horse with them after being notified of his death, so he was hauled out of the bushes where he lay decomposing, and loaded into a U-Haul for a necropsy.
The homemade amphetamine concoction (see necropsy and toxicology report) alleged to have been injected into the stallion by layperson Nowlin certainly wasn’t one of the two recommended forms of euthanasia, namely barbiturate overdose with sedation or shotgun. Amphetamines stimulate the nervous system – breathing and heart rate speed up and energy levels and anxiety may be increased. Amphetamines are controlled substances in the US and are sometimes used in the manufacture of other illicit drugs. These drugs are banned across racetracks internationally because they can excite an animal to a degree to which they are uncontrollable and are very likely to hurt either themselves or anyone near them. They certainly have no business being injected into a horse. It does not appear that the “euthanasia” drugs administered actually killed Brad Pitt outright either, since the cause-of-death was determined to be traumatic injury to the central nervous system due to fractured cervical vertebra.
The most soul-crushing aspects of this case are the injuries to Brad Pitt, which are described in Sean Tuley DVM’s report, and expanded upon by Victoria L. Smith DVM.
Findings by Tuley Equine Sports Medicine:
“Grossly, Brad Pitt, was covered in flies, as well as dried mud, he had multiple excoriations as well as impalements covering his entire body. No evidence of predation by scavengers was evident. A post mortem evisceration was most notable beginning at the left paralumbar fossa, extending ventrally, through the perineum and ending 6 cm short of the anus. The wound was deep to the pelvic floor, created via sharp dissection and showed no evidence of bleeding or bruising. This wound was created post-mortem.
The left hind pelvic limb was completely luxated and was only attached by the gluteal muscles and dorsal skin. On the ventral sagittal abdomen at intercostal 17 an eviscerating lesion of 4 cm was present. A deep puncture wound on the medial left radius of 10 cm was noted. Located on the left lateral antebrachium a sharp excision of 12 cm was noted.
The left elbow joint was completely dislocated. Blunt force trauma, with dried stained blood was present near the lateral canthus of the right eye. The gum tissue was hyperemic and a vesicular lesion on the gum tissue was consistent with aggressive use of a lip chain war bridle. On gross appearance the cervical vertebrae appear to be luxated. Upon sharp dissection, a large hematoma approximately 8 cm in diameter appeared deep to the Splenius mm. and dorsal to the longissimus mm. near the C6-C7 junction. Upon further dissection the Cervical joint between C6 and C7 was completely luxated. This appears to be an antemortem finding.”
Dr. Tuley continues….
“In four years of veterinary school, performing routine necropsies, and 6 years of private practice-having now euthanized over 50 cases personally, (this figure does not include my training at WSU-VTH or with Traber Bergsma Simkins inc., where significantly more euthanasias and necropsies were performed) I have yet to see an animal present so poorly, in as bad of condition as I saw Brad. Injuries stemming from the lip chain, battered right eye and broken neck, all occurred while Brad was still alive. These findings are evident by the fact that bleeding and other signs of inflammation were present. Given the presence of multiple eviscerations and leg dismemberment, even after death, Brad was not treated with much regard.”
Findings by Victoria L. Smith DVM
- Blunt force trauma to the right side of the head and right eye. Aggressive use of lip chain
- Left elbow completely luxated and spinal cord trauma possibly caused by a rotational fall at high speed or by the horse rearing up and falling backwards
- “Severe intentional penetrating injuries to the horse post-mortem”
- “An incision had been made into the abdominal cavity, eviscerating the horse, sharply luxating the left pelvic limb, and the bladder had been removed.”
- “The horse Brad Pitt’s injuries are consistent with intentional and painful abuse by a human.”
Dr. Smith’s comments suggest that the horse may have been “drugged with intravenous amphetamines via an aggressive lip chain to restrain the head during injection. Dr. Smith explored the possibility that, for cruel sport, someone proceeded to rope Brad Pitt’s forelimbs, “tipping the horse and causing a rotational fall which luxated the elbow and luxated the cervical vertebrae. The horse’s eye and perioribital area could have been injured by a closed fist or by self-trauma, as a frantic, traumatized, painful horse may slam his head into the ground in terror. “
Below is a copy of the Complaint filed against Donald Nowlin and Outwest Livestock in Yakima County Superior Court concerning the torture and killing of Brad Pitt, an approximately 20-year-old thoroughbred purchased by Rebecca Thorley and Monica Baxter in August 2016. This document contains the allegations and claims made against Nowlin, et al. The plaintiffs are also suing for severe emotional distress and the recovery of actual damages and out-of-pocket expenses.
The sharing of the Amended Complaint and Tuley/Smith reports was done with the permission of Adam P. Karp Esq, All documents are public records. Documents originally posted on the “Justice for Brad Pitt Thoroughbred” Facebook page.
Amended Complaint filed April 4, 2017
Necropsy reports prepared by Sean Tuley, DVM and Victoria Smith, DVM.
“Did Brad experience stress and anxiety while under the influence of these illicit compounds? Did Brad experience pain and suffering while accumulating these ante mortem injuries? My visceral reaction is yes on both instances. However, I cannot conclude for how long the suffering endured.” Sean Tuley, DVM
Who cannot relate to the anguish that Brad Pitt’s owners felt not only in discovering that he was dead, but how he died? Imagine collecting his body in the condition described in the necropsy report – and later reading how he was purported to have been killed. Not only was there a lack of care given to him – he is alleged to have been deliberately abused. Do any of Nowlin’s feedlot horses end up at the “horse tripping” establishment next door to him where they are “smoked” (roped by their back legs)? What do you think? I say, if you can’t put them in jail, you take their money. Civil lawsuits act as an important tool because fighting them requires time and money that could be used for other purposes – like collecting horses to be killed.
I know there is a very good argument for continuing to deal with unscrupulous people in order to get horses off lots like this. All horses in peril deserve saving regardless of where they have landed, but please don’t facilitate these horrors by providing kill buyers with this lucrative revenue stream. By making kill buyers more profitable, we are guaranteeing they will stay in business and more of them will pop up. Save your money by buying locally and preventing a horse from ending up going to an auction in the first place; there are needy horses everywhere that you can actually lay your eyes on, and they deserve help too. No, the truck is not coming for broker horses – it already left and they weren’t on it. The slaughter truck came for a horse that you never saw.
If you are interested in helping and want your money to make a difference, you may donate to support the Friends of Brad Pitt.
Donations will be used for legal bills related to the civil suit.