The Next Step

What does the rest of the country think about horse owners--and the horse industry--about now? Probably not too highly, would be my guess. A call from CBS radio network reporter Stephan Kaufman out of Washington state asked if I would comment on the plight of starving horses in the United States. Ouch! If national news media think that horses being abandoned and left to starve is a rampant problem throughout the United States, we have some educating to do inside and outside of our industry. People love horses; we of all folks know that because we love them enough to have them in our lives 24/7. But headlines in magazines, newspapers, and Web sites across the country--inside and outside of the industry--repeatedly bring to light problems with horses that are neglected, abused, or abandoned. Some of these cases are due to pure and simple meanness; a majority are because of ignorance or economic circumstance. The former group needs to be given a taste of their own medicine; the latter group needs help.

The Unwanted Horse Coalition should inspect and register equine welfare groups, and the horse industry should financially support them in those efforts.

How does it feel to be part of an industry that has been romanticized for decades (a girl and her horse, cowboys and their equine partners, etc.) and now is being headlined for not caring for our equine companions? Not so good? Okay, so what can we do?

Where Does Help Come From?

There have to be options for horses and their owners who can no longer care for these large animals. This might mean selling the horse to another owner (it is becoming more difficult for the grade, unbroke, difficult, or unsound horse to be placed because of the rising cost of feed and upkeep and the overabundance of horses that need expert handling to become useful equine citizens), giving the horse to another owner (see above notation), giving the horse to a welfare or other type of group (see above notation), or euthanasia (which can be expensive, and disposal problematic).

There also is the option of selling the horse at public auction where it could end up in Canada or Mexico at slaughter since a vocal portion of U.S. citizens deemed that U.S. slaughter of horses is inhumane. (That's a discussion for another time.)

Face it, folks, we need to develop a system of "horse shelters" that are interrelated, have oversight, and are well-funded and networked. Shelters that first try to place horses, but in the end offer humane euthanasia.

There are hundreds, possibly thousands, of humane groups in the United States that take in horses. Last year, before the economy took a nosedive, we surveyed a large group of equine shelters that showed they were not only overfull, but underfunded (see the results at article #10104 on TheHorse.com). Some of those groups and individuals who care about horses have become so overburdened that the horses in their care have suffered.

If you do a Google Search for "animal shelter" you get a tool that allows you to find one in your area. There isn't one of those for horses. Organizations such as PetFinder offer horses from various shelters for adoption (we also feature these horses on every page of TheHorse.com), but that's not enough.

The Unwanted Horse Coalition is creating yet another a list of equine welfare groups, but I call for them to take the next step and start inspecting and registering those groups.Then we as an industry must support them financially to help the horses, owners, and groups who have fallen on hard times.

About the Author

Kimberly S. Brown

Kimberly S. Brown was the Publisher/Editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care from June 2008 to March 2010, and she served in various positions at Blood-Horse Publications since 1980.

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