Unwanted Horse Survey Results Released

The results of a survey on perceptions of factors surrounding the unwanted horse issue are now available from the Unwanted Horse Coalition.  

The study assessed the causes and magnitude of the unwanted horse population in the United States. It was conducted by an independent market research company from November 2008 to January 2009. More than 23,000 responded.

Results indicate that the problem of unwanted horses is perceived to be growing on many fronts. More than 90% of participants believe the number of unwanted horses, as well as those neglected and abused, is increasing. Of the participants, 87% indicate that in the past year, the issue of unwanted horses has become "a big problem," compared with 22% who said the problem was important three years ago. Respondents also report that the number of horses being euthanized is increasing.

The economy is considered to be a significant contributor to the unwanted horse problem. The closing of the nation's processing facilities, changes in breed demand/indiscriminate breeding, as well as the high costs of euthanasia and carcass disposal are also cited by respondents as major contributors.

Regarding placement options for unwanted horses, 63% of equine rescue/retirement facilities polled report they are at near or full capacity and, on average, turn away 38% of the horses brought to them. Capacity is clearly the issue; as many horses stay at the facilities for life as are adopted out.

Survey respondents said they believe the top solutions for solving the problem of unwanted horses are to educate owners to purchase and own responsibly, increase the ability of private rescue and retirement facilities to care for unwanted horses, reopen the U.S. slaughter plants, and increase options and resources for euthanizing and disposing of unwanted horses.

"One of the highlights of the survey is the willingness by all respondents to resolve the unwanted horse problem," said Tom R. Lenz, DVM, chair of the UHC. "We believe these findings will be useful in identifying common ground for all interested groups and aid us in developing solutions that will have a profound and lasting impact on the lives of unwanted horses and the horse industry at large."

See the survey results (PDF).

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with FREE weekly newsletters from TheHorse.com. Learn More