Equine care facilities: Helping our Nation’s unwanted horses
November 12, 2010
WASHINGTON, DC – A good deal of research has been done in the past few years about the importance of equine care facilities within the equine industry. With the number of unwanted horses currently estimated at 100,000 per year, increasing the ability of current facilities to care for horses and starting additional facilities will help to alleviate the burden.
The Unwanted Horse Coalition’s 2009 Unwanted Horses Survey, with 2,245 participants representing equine care facilities out of a total of more than 27,000 respondents, found that many of our nation’s rescues are at or near capacity and must turn many horses away. The survey found that 39 percent of facilities have reached their maximum capacity, 30 percent are at 75- 99 percent capacity, and 26 percent are at 50-74 percent capacity. Rescue/adoption/rehabilitation facilities reported turning away 38 percent of the horses that are brought to them. One of the most appealing solutions cited by the 27,000 respondents is to increase the ability of private care facilities to care for unwanted horses.
A recent survey conducted by experts at the University of California, Davis, estimated that there are 326 registered non-profit equine rescue facilities in the U.S. The maximum capacity of these rescues is approximately 13,400, well below the estimation of 100,000 unwanted horses in the U.S. every year.
Because of the number of unwanted horses and the limited capacity of our nation’s current equine care facilities, it is extremely important to increase the ability of our current facilities to gain more funding, adopt out more horses, and care for additional horses. Creating new rescue/adoption/rehabilitation facilities to help take in more unwanted horses will also help alleviate the issue of unwanted horses the equine industry is facing. Whether it be a currently operating facility or an up and coming new facility, it is vital that these facilities have the tools and the means to run a well-established, long-term business. The more our equine care facilities are informed about issues such as volunteer management, fundraising mechanisms, database management, and non-profit status the more horses will be given a second chance at a new career.
Many facilities and individuals have noted the importance of starting new facilities to care for unwanted horses. Days End Farm Horse Rescue, located in Lisbon, MD, has created a manual that will help guide those who wish to start their own equine care facility. “Guidelines for Establishing a Non-Profit Horse Rescue Facility” was created to inform individuals interested in starting a horse rescue about the expense and the time involved in such an endeavor, and to provide additional useful information collected over the years by an established rescue facility. Kathy Howe, president of Days End Farm Horse Rescue, said, “A horse rescue facility is foremost a business and needs to be run like a business. The horses’ lives are in your hands. Love the horses with your heart but protect the horses with your mind!”
Jennifer Williams of Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society also published a book about the proper way to start and run a horse rescue facility. Williams stated, “The number of rescues in the country increases almost daily yet many people who decide to run a rescue organization have never been involved with non-profits. Although they have the heart to dedicate to the cause, they often do not know how to put together a rescue or how to run the organization once it is set up. Because of this, many rescuers get overwhelmed and close their doors. This book is designed to help assist those who are trying to start a rescue and to provide advice for the long-term management of their organization.” The book, “How to Start and Run a Rescue,” gives an insight into how established rescue organizations operate, and also how one can get involved in volunteering or assisting rescues.
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Although the equine care facilities take on much of the brunt and the burden of the nation’s unwanted horse population, all equine organizations must be involved at some level to help solve the problem. The Unwanted Horse Coalition (UHC) published a handbook entitled “Best Practices: How Your Organization Can Help Unwanted Horses,” which details the efforts, initiatives and activities organizations can undertake to help reduce the number of unwanted horses. It is important that breed organizations assess the number of unwanted horses produced within their breed and, in turn, implement programs that will help give horses a chance at adoption and/or rehabilitation.
The National Thoroughbred Racing Association has created a Safety and Integrity Alliance, which has a large focus on aftercare for retired racehorses. Because of this program, many racetracks around the country are developing on-track adoption programs to assist racehorses in finding new homes and second careers. The Jockey Club created the Retirement Checkoff Program, which enables owners to make donations at the time of registration that benefit the Thoroughbred Charities of America and the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. The Jockey Club also provides tattoo research free of charge through its Tattoo Identification Services. With tattoo information, more Thoroughbreds can be identified, which helps in the planning for the horses’ welfare.
The American Quarter Horse Association has developed a program entitled Full Circle Program. This program enables Quarter Horse owners and breeders to enroll their horses at no cost to ensure that these horses, even if sold, will never become unwanted.
The United States Trotting Association has also implemented a program to help assist their Standardbred horses in need. The Support Our Standardbreds program is designed to provide financial aid for the care of abused or neglected Standardbred horses.
For more information on how your organization can get involved in the effort to help unwanted horses, please contact UHC Director Ericka Caslin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-296-4031.