Animal Advocates Contemplate Remedial Horse Care Classes

Sara Isaacson of California's Heart of the Redwoods Horse Rescue has seen her share of abused and neglected horses. But since looking after a herd of horses connected with an animal neglect case in Humboldt County, Calif., Isaacson said she might have a way to reduce recidivism among horse abusers, and possibly keep some horse owners out of court in the first place.

"What if people convicted in neglect cases were court ordered to receive horse care classes as part of their probation?" Isaacson asked.

Her plan is to educate errant horse owners about the simple things such as feeding, watering, basic vetting requirements, and how many acres of pasture a horse needs to thrive.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, 29 states (including California) mandate or permit psychological counseling in probation conditions for animal welfare lawbreakers. None currently require horse care education.

"What if people convicted in neglect cases were court ordered to receive horse care classes as part of their probation?" --Sara Isaacson
Paul Miller, executive director of Maryland's Humane Society of Washington County, said that might be due to the fact that criminal charges usually aren't filed until offenders have had multiple brushes with the law.

"Animal control officers issue citations for minor violations," Miller said. "Education is supposed to be happening along the way."

Even when it's court ordered, he said, counseling often doesn't take place because courts don't follow-up on compliance.

Miller said he would like to see equine care education programming become a nationwide priority--not just for animal welfare offenders, but for anyone who owns a horse.

"Why can't every humane group get together, set aside a portion of their budgets and make it available all over the country for a year? After all, you can't educate people in Kentucky and expect people in Maryland to get the message," he said.

Even then, veterinarian Tim Van Der Ploeg, DVM, of the Somerset Animal Hospital in Kentucky doubts the message will reach those most in need.

"I don't think it would work," he said. "I've talked to clients about how to care for their horses until I'm blue in the face, and the next year they show up with the same health problems."

Isaacson is willing to take a chance on the idea.

"Probations are short," she said. "These people are going to own horses again someday."

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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