Slaughterbound Horses. Image: HSUS.
SIX – POINT PLAN TO ELIMINATE THE SLAUGHTER
OF AMERICA’S HORSES
The following programs are not theoretical, but have already been developed and implemented by the country’s equine rescue community, and if expanded by funding from the industry, can eliminate the perceived need to send our horses off to slaughter for human consumption abroad in a relatively short period of time.
1. The creation of state and regional managed reserves to hold large numbers of horses safely until they can be absorbed back into the system. HSUS has already established two of these as a model and the cost for quartering and properly caring for each horse is miniscule compared to those on smaller sanctuaries. These can be established and operated by existing rescue organizations in each state working cooperatively and sharing the facility.
Since much of America’s farm and ranch land lies fallow at this time and many states have provisions for taking those dedicated to animal sanctuaries off the tax rolls, land owners will have the incentive to donate the use of these on long-term lease arrangements, thus minimizing the cost of establishing them.
2. Selected expansion of existing sanctuary capacity for rescues that establish business plans allowing them to accommodate and care for additional horses in their operations if more facility space is provided. Already many leading sanctuary operators around the country have expanded their rescue herds to deal with the crisis caused by the economy, and many more could if provided with the necessary funds to do so.
Simply stated, if sanctuaries are at capacity, make them larger so they can accept more horses.
3. Expand existing and develop new sponsored foster home networks in which rescued horses are placed and supported with private individuals who have the facility and desire to keep horses, but are financially unable to. Interestingly, the economy has created more candidates for this than ever before as owners have had to give up their own horses, but still have the facility to provide a home for those owned by nonprofit sanctuaries.
The largest pure equine sanctuary in the country today has the majority of its rescued horses placed in foster homes in three states and many others have these on a smaller scale, so the experience and expertise for helping other sanctuary operators develop them quickly is already in place. The cost for keeping a horse in a foster home is a fraction of that for one quartered on a sanctuary itself since there is no fixed overhead expense.
4. Expand the concept of in-place rescue to keep more horses with dedicated and committed owners in their current homes with temporary financial or feeding assistance.
Currently there is a nationwide pilot program in place, privately funded, in which a small number of selected nonprofit sanctuaries provide local horse owners who qualify with financial assistance for feeding, minor vet procedures, farrier work and other equine needs if they agree to a sustainability plan to keep their horses.
This is considered a hand up, not a hand out and the goal of this program is to keep 1,000 horses in their current homes this winter. The investment to do this average only $200 per horse and this program can be rapidly expanded nationwide since the mechanics are already in place.
Still another established program is emergency feeding assistance efforts being carried out throughout the country. The Oregon Hay Bank was mentioned earlier and there are many smaller ones operated by rescue sanctuaries themselves. With funding from the equine industry these efforts can be expanded immediately and directly benefit its end consumer, the private horse owner.
5. The creation of state and regional training centers and networks, in which younger, healthier horses, which represent most of those going to slaughter today, can receive the training they need to lead productive lives and therefore be much more eligible for adoption to new homes.
This can be based on the existing T.R.O.T.T. program for off-the-track Thoroughbreds which has been successfully implemented in California and the various mustang training competitions designed to make wild horses more adoptable. Again, there is nothing to invent in a program such as this, there are models already in place.
Although some rescue sanctuary operators have the ability to train the younger, healthier horses being saved today, having this availability for those who do not would make many more of the horses in their herds adoptable, thus creating openings for more displaced horses. Also placing rescued horses in centers or with private trainers in these networks would provide temporary quartering for them, further alleviating the strain on the sanctuaries themselves.
6. A relatively new development in equine rescue, a growing network of sanctuary operators who work together to place horses they cannot accept themselves, has saved literally thousands of horses in the past two years.
An informal regional group of only 11 in the Pacific Northwest has been able to place over 400 by posting horses needing new homes and sharing information.
The establishment this year of the National Equine Resource Network provides a vehicle for not only creating and formalizing a national placement network, but also can be a resource for effectively distributing funding from the industry as envisioned in this paper.
Currently there are two individuals who post horses daily needing re-homing that are listed directly or on various websites, and their records more than anything else belie the claim that only unwanted horses go to slaughter.
The owners posting the vast majority of these horses have found themselves unable to keep them due to unemployment and other reasons created by the economy and are desperate to find them new homes to avoid slaughter for their beloved animals.