Cassey

Rescues Can't Keep Up

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by: Marie Rosenthal, MS

October 07 2010, Article # 17070

Each year there are about 100,000 unwanted horses in the United States, too many for the registered equine rescue and sanctuary groups to handle, according to a recent survey by researchers at the University of California, Davis. They found that the 236 registered rescue and sanctuary organizations could only help about 13,400 horses a year.

"Nonprofit equine rescue and sanctuary organizations have an important role to play in caring for and finding new homes for unwanted horses, but they are not a panacea (a cure-all) for the issue due to their limited capacity," said Kathryn Holcomb, MA, a PhD student at the University of California, Davis.

Holcomb and her colleagues surveyed 144 organizations in 37 states to find out why so many horses are unwanted and who is taking care of them.

"I was impressed by the dedication of the people involved with equine rescue and the sacrifices they make in time, and the limited money and resources available to provide care for these horses," she said.

According to the researchers, these nonprofits do not have the land, staff, or finances to handle all the unwanted horses. On average, they are supported through donations and personal funds, can care for only 10-20 horses at a time, and rely on volunteers to help. Between 2006 and 2009, only three out of every four horses relinquished to one of the nonprofit organizations surveyed was adopted or sold, and many organizations had to refuse horses due to lack of resources.

She supported the idea that breed registries and equestrians' associations help by dedicating a small amount--for example, $1--of the registry fees or membership dues to help fund equine shelters. "The Thoroughbred racing industry has such a program with rehabilitating these horses to new roles," she said.

But the best way to solve the problem is to limit the number of unwanted horses, Holcomb concluded, and suggested these methods:

Reduce indiscriminate breeding;

Educate new and existing owners on the responsibility associated with horses throughout their lives;

Take responsibility for matching horses to rider ability and expectations;

Use behavior science to reassess handling/training methods that might contribute to problems; and

Use animal welfare science to ensure that the way we house, use, and care for our horses promotes their mental and physical well-being.

The survey found that the most frequently-cited reasons for relinquishing a horse are financial hardship, owner's physical inability or lack of time to care for the horses, and seizure by law enforcement agencies for alleged neglect or abuse.

"Owning a horse requires a considerable, long-term commitment and responsibility that should be fully understood and accepted at the time of purchase and throughout the horse's life," she said.

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I know that nobody can ever really get that yes, they *are* part of the problem, even when they're only breeding one or two now and then. It adds up.

Think of that $20 in your pocket; a chocolate bar here, feeding a parking meter there, and before you know it, that twenty bucks is gone.

Think of the that process in reverse; a horse or two in Person A's backyard, a horse or 5 in Person B. It adds up and the problem is going to get worse as the economy continues to do a slow crumble.

I wish human beings could put aside greed and sense of entitlement for even 5 years, band together and agree to stop all forms of backyard breeding, just voluntarily (I heard the echoes of "What?! It's our right to do whatever we want with our animals!" so thought I should stress that this is a dream, and it would be entered into voluntarily by all humans)

If everybody who wanted to breed Trixie just because she's such an awesome/cute dog/cat/horse would stop for a bit, the populations would even out instead of climbing exponentially.

Breeders of high dollar animals would be licensed after careful genetic inspections of their stock and issued limits, just like fishermen and hunters are.

Anyway, that's my dream, and I wish for it upon a star everytime I see a skinny, matted horse/dog/cat. Some of these animals are so sweet, you just know they were loved at one time, so probably bred for on purpose.

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I wish breeding could be regulated.

Like, you have to have a license to own a stud...or, even better....all non registered males must be gelded. I wish there was a birth control paste that cost no more than a wormer or a feed daily pill that was easily fed to mares that became a part of daily life with horse owning as the farrier and a bale of hay.

And you had to have a permit to breed her.

Now, please y'all...I know I have a filly....I know she is part reg. dun and part appy without papers and I know that goes against the above I just said.

But, I bred Cricket with the idea that she was to fill in the gap that was left when Pete and Teddy died. So I actually "reduced" my herd from 5 to 4. I also did it with the understanding that she is born with me by her side, and she will live her life and die with me by her side. I also have her in my will....we just did it last week. All my horses will go to my brother and cannot be sold. I am alos working currently on a savings put aside in the event of my death for the 4 horses.

So, I am not a willy-nilly breeding cuz I think it is fun and don't think about what the imprint of the breed will do.

But, if we were regulated...in my "regulate breeding scenario" and I could not have bred Izzy.....I would have been fine with that......and my dream of a Crush baby would have turned into another opportunity somewhere else.

You gotta come over to our place and just "listen" to the talking about breeding around there. You would swear it was "pitt bulls" they were talking about. It is frightening....but I do think horses are slowly becoming the new 'pitt bull" ....at least where I see it from down here....and I am petrified.

We have NO regulation measures for even starving and abused horses....none.

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Far too many people (speaking from my area) keep horses as studs, that should never be a stud. They breed mares to that stud, or they breed to anyone else's backyard stud. And a huge huge percentage of those mares are not breeding material either. The two biggest reasons for breeding around here, is because they think they'll get an awesome color, and babies are so cute. Neither of which are valid reasons to breed anything. If I don't like it, or when things go wrong, I can always take it to a sale, and at worst it will go for meat. Sales are not the problem. People are the problem, and they are the ones that need to be regulated.

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I agree whole heartedly to the regulation aspect of things. I think a stallion that is registered and has proven himself in a certain area...huntseat/endurance...etc. can be used to reproduce BUT only to a certain number of mares that have proven themselves as well in something productive...and then it can only be live cover.

I think regulations should be in place for the number of animals bred. But I also think people are more of the problem. Breeding in my part of the country is HORRID!! It's sickening and very sad.

I recently took in a 5 month old filly as she was a BRB production. I wanted a baby to raise...but I wasn't going to breed my mares b/c I knew it wasn't the right thing in my mind to do.

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I can always take it to a sale, and at worst it will go for meat.

It's the neglect, abuse and starvation that happens to these animals *before* they go to a sale or ship for meat that keeps me up at night.

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You can't legislate brains or common sense. Kind of like traffic laws. Those who ARE the problem find ways around the rules.

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Now see, I bred my mare twice, because I wanted USING horses. &, I got them. They are adorable, conformationally pretty nice, IMO, & not going anywhere any time soon. They WILL be broke to ride, they WILL be shown, they ARE registered, & if the Fit hits the Shan, & "Red Dawn" happens? They'll be transportation, & worst case scenario, they will be our meat for the winter. Same goes with their mother, & the other 3 we own.

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You can't legislate brains or common sense. Kind of like traffic laws. Those who ARE the problem find ways around the rules.

That is so true...more laws isn't going to solve the problem. It just means more government hands making a bigger mess of things...and people finding ways around it...the truthful honest breeders out there will be the ones who will suffer.

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Yes, it's too bad the government has to be brought in to attempt the legislation of common sense, it's the ultimate irony.

The sad reality is, nothing is going to change because human beings are what they are.

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I'm not sure adding regulations will have the dramatic effect intended.

I think what might cause significant change/improvement would be to appropriately train animal control staff and start enforcing the laws we do have.

It is very unfortunate, but I've seen several examples of situations where animals truly were in poor condition and AC agents either were not adequately trained to identify the condition of horses or lacked the funds/stroke to do something about a problem.

I've also seen situations where AC DID intervene and actually put the horses into WORSE situations because they simply did not have the facilities or resources to appropriately care for the horses.

It's sad. But I really do think that if more barn owners and horse owners knew that there would be serious consequences for neglect, the problem would reduce. Maybe the horses would be euth'd. But I think that would be better than torturing them for a few months or years first.

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