In this part we will look at the attempts that rescues and shelters have made and what affect the closure of slaughter houses have had on horse abuse and neglect.
Horse welfare in the United States has generally declined since 2007, as evidenced by a reported increase in horse abandonment and an increase in investigations for horse abuse and neglect. Comprehensive, national data are lacking, but state, local government, and animal welfare organizations report a rise in investigations for horse neglect and more abandoned horses since 2007. For example, Colorado data showed that investigations for horse neglect and abuse increased more than 60 percent from 975 in 2005 to 1,588 in 2009. Also, California, Texas, and Florida reported more horses abandoned on private or state land since 2007. These changes have strained resources, according to state data and officials that GAO interviewed. State, local, tribal, and horse industry officials generally attributed these increases in neglect and abandonment to cessation of domestic slaughter and the economic downturn. Others, including representatives from some animal welfare organizations, questioned the relevance of cessation of slaughter to these problems.
In the GAO document they reported that states that do collect some data reported increases in abandonment or investigations of abuse and neglect since the cessation of domestic slaughter. For example, data from Colorado showed a 50- percent increase in investigations for abuse and neglect from 1,067 in 2005 to 1,588 in 2009. Similarly, data from Indiana indicated that horse abuse and neglect investigations more than doubled from 20 in 2006 to 55 in 2009. In addition, organizations representing localities, especially counties and sheriffs, have reported an increasing problem. For example, the Montana Association of Counties reported that the number of horses being abandoned by their owners has rapidly increased since horse slaughter for human consumption was halted in the United States, but the association did not have specific data. In addition, the National Association of Counties reported that the increasing abandonment problem is not exclusive to Montana or the West but is happening nationwide.
In a review of several Oklahoma horse rescues, they are saying on their websites and Facebook pages an increase in owner surrenders, and seizures due to abuse and neglect. These horses are putting a strain on horse rescues budgets. This can be seen by the increased number of pleas for donations to care for the animals that they have. The increase in horses comes at a time when already high feed, hay and gas prices are stretching limited budgets to the max. In some cases rescues themselves are the ones abusing the horses by trying to care for more animals than they can afford and having reduced rates of adoptions.A 2010 University of California-Davis report noted that 144 registered non-profit horse rescues responding (out of 326 contacted) spent an average $3,648/horse/year. The study suggests an average annual cost of $50 million for 13,700 animals in registered non-profit care facilities. And, more horses need rescue care every year.
The majority of rescues are at or above capacity. Some no longer accept horses. Most are strapped for funds. Some have closed for lack of funds.
Among the factors affecting horse owners, a horse owner’s decision to abandon a horse generally related to (1) cessation of domestic slaughter, (2) poor economic conditions, and (3) low horse prices or lack of sale opportunities. The factors most often related to a horse owner’s neglect of a horse were (1) poor economic conditions, (2) the cost of horse care and maintenance, and (3) lower horse prices. Very few owners directly physically abuse their horses, which would be a crime. More common, however, were owners who neglected the feeding and proper care—such as providing farrier services and vaccinations—of their horses. Thus, based on this information, the primary drivers for the increase in abandonment and neglect cases are the cessation of domestic slaughter, causing lower horse prices and difficulty in selling horses, and the economic downturn, affecting horse owners’ ability to properly care for their animals.Current economic conditions are compounding the problem for cash-strapped owners who find it nearly impossible to sell their infirmed, unneeded, or unwanted horses, regardless of age and condition. It is not unusual for lower classes of horse to sell for as little as $1, if they sell at all. Commission fees charged owners are frequently more than the selling price. Some sale barns no longer handle horses because of the slim profit margin and because owners sometimes leave unsold horses behind.
Those against horse slaughter have had since the closing of the last slaughter house in the US in 2007 to make a difference in the number of horses going to slaughter. They have not. There is still roughly the same amount of horses each year going to slaughter houses in Canada and Mexico. These horses endure long trips on transports to places that have minimal standards for slaughter and no oversight by the United States. The closing of US slaughter houses has increased the cruelty horses experience in the slaughter pipeline not reduced it. Nor has it reduced the number of horses being slaughtered.The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), an agency of the US Dept. of Agriculture, reports 130,900 horses were shipped outside the U.S. for immediate slaughter in 2011: 62,500 to Canada; 68,400 to Mexico. Additionally, 2,590 head went to Canada as feeders. (Caring for these horses in rescues would cost approximately $480 million annually.)
The closing of slaughter houses in the United States has done what no one could see. It has made life worse for the horses in the US. Horses that no one wants any longer are taking up resources that could be used for wanted horses that are already here and for the ones yet to be born. While the No Kill movement is feasible for shelter pets, horses have specialized needs (a New Yorker can not keep a horse on the patio!) that make a “no kill” movement for horses unworkable. There has to be a way to dispose of the unwanted, dangerous, ill horse that is cost effective for the horse owner and the country. As sad to say it horse slaughter is that answer. The 100,000 or so horses that go to slaughter each year have a far reaching effect on this country’s economy. And in this day and age every little bit helps right down to the farmer that raises the grain to feed the horses.
For more information:
Check out this video by AMillionHorses.com
A million horses website
The Unwanted Horse Coalition
Slideshow of abandoned horses
Stories of abandoned horses