SPCA Uses Public Education to Garner Horse Abuse Tips

New York's Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) rarely receives more than seven tips relating to horse cruelty per month. But after the agency seized five allegedly malnourished horses from a barn in Central Islip on Sept. 28, the number of horse cruelty reports spiked. President and Chief Executive Director Roy Gross is capitalizing on interest in equine welfare with a public education campaign to teach people how to spot horses at risk.

Gross is using local media to spread the message that horses with protruding ribs, swollen joints, or visible wounds might warrant reports of abuse or neglect, but that horses kept outdoors are not necessarily being mistreated, so long as they have plenty of food and water.

"We're not asking people to trespass on others' property, we're just asking people to notice the condition of horses in their neighborhoods," Gross explained.

According to Kathleen Schwartz Howe, executive director of the Days End Farm horse rescue in Lisbon, Md., public education efforts like Gross' are critical to abuse prevention and cruelty law enforcement.

"You can't have too much awareness of the issues out there," she said. "We won't prevent cruelty without full support."

As a result of the campaign, Gross expects horse cruelty tips to further increase. While he expects a percentage of those will likely prove unfounded, he vows to follow up on every one.

"We have the personnel to do it," he said. "If we get one call in 10 that's truly a cruelty case, at least we can save that one horse."

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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