Unwanted Horse Coalition Offering Resources for Horse Owners

Recent articles in prominent newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times have reported on an apparent increase in the numbers of unwanted horses. Regional newspapers and television stations have also reported that state agencies and horse rescue groups are seeing a growing number of horses whose owners can no longer care for them. Some of these reports suggest that certain rescue groups are about to be overwhelmed and might have to start turning horses away.

These articles offer numerous factors for a problem that could get worse. They include excessive breeding; the downturn in the economy; sharply rising costs of hay; the drought that has affected many parts of the U.S.; the costs of euthanasia and carcass disposal; and the closing of the nation's three slaughter facilities, which removed the floor on the value of horses.

"Whatever the causes, and they probably include all of these factors, this is not an optimistic forecast for the industry or these horses," said Tom Lenz, DVM, chairman of the Unwanted Horse Coalition. "Let's hope it doesn't get worse."

The Unwanted Horse Coalition (UHC), which operates under the auspices of the American Horse Council, includes over 20 national organizations. It was created to educate horse owners and potential horse owners about what it means to "Own Responsibly."

These reports indicate it might be time for the industry and horse owners to step up their efforts to educate themselves about potential solutions.

Some individuals and organizations have already stepped up with needed resources. But the costs of potentially caring for thousands of additional horses are substantial.

Rescue efforts are important but individual horse owners have a responsibility to do what they can for their horses.

The Coalition has prepared various materials that will help horse owners consider alternatives for their horses. The materials suggest options an individual can take now and in the future to so that the number of unwanted horses does not increase.

The UHC brochure, The Problem of the Unwanted Horse, explains the Coalition and its activities. The Coalition handbook, Own Responsibly: Guidance for Current and Potential Horse Owners from the Unwanted Horse Coalition, addresses basic horse care; the responsibilities of horse ownership; options for owners with unwanted horses; programs that extend the useful life of horses, such as retraining, second careers, therapeutic riding programs and retirement facilities; questions to ask when trying to place a horse; euthanasia; and the tax ramifications of contributing your horse to a charitable organization.

"The materials prepared by the Coalition may be helpful in the current situation," said Katy Carter, coordinator of the Coalition. These materials are available online at www.unwantedhorsecoalition.org and can be downloaded," said Carter.

Copies can also be obtained by e-mailing the coalition through its Web site, or by calling the American Horse Council at 202/296-4031.

The Coalition also has a growing list of facilities and programs that will accept horses. More than 125 facilities are currently listed by state. Any facility or program can be listed by signing on to the Web site and completing a brief questionnaire.

If the industry is facing a growing problem with horses that are not being cared for, there will be no quick and easy fix.

"If the owners who are having trouble taking care of their horses can place them with different, willing owners or users, that will go a long way toward solving the problem," Lenz stated.

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