(In a few weeks, Habitat for Horses will celebrate 15 years of service to the horses. From two horses pulled from the slaughter truck to hundreds of court cases and thousands of horses that have passed through our gates, we’ve become a strong voice for equine welfare. Now, 15 years later, we are on the edge of some very important changes in developing new methods of human/horse interaction. As we move in that direction, it might be interesting to look back a little at the things we’ve done. This article is a reprint of a news article published in Cowboy and Indians Magazine)
They gathered in the parking lot of the local grocery store before sunrise, three Sheriff’s Officers and members of the equine protection organization Habitat for Horses, with their trucks and horse trailers. “Here’s the situation,” the Deputy said. “We have one and possibly more horses dead at the location. We don’t know how many horses are on the property, but probably more than ten. The officers will go in first and serve the warrant, then tell you when it’s clear for your crew to move in.”
Eight hours later, 27 horses had been removed. Two recently deceased horses were found and one very emaciated horse died during the seizure when it was kicked by another horse. Providing twenty-four hour a day care for the next ten days, volunteers at Habitat for Horses hayed, watered and medicated the starved animals under the guidance of a local veterinarian while others volunteers prepared the documentation for the court presentation.
In 1998, a small group of dedicated horse lovers started Habitat for Horses in the small town of Santa Fe, Texas, a bedroom community south of Houston. Now, ten years later, the organization is one of the largest equine protection organizations in the United States, serving law enforcement in throughout Texas and assisted a number of large seizures in other parts of the United States.
“Our main goal is to educate the owners in better methods of equine management,” said Susan Moore, head of the Enforcement Division. “Sometimes it’s simply explaining the need for worming medication or dental care. The owners appreciate the help and the horses are back on the road to health. Despite repeated efforts to educate the owners, some simply don’t listen. That’s when law enforcement steps in.”
“Last year we brought 370 horses, donkeys and mules into the organization,” said Rebecca Williams, Vice-President. “The majority were malnourished and needed medical care.” Through its adoption program, around 320 horses found new homes. The organization maintains an inventory of around 250 horses through its foster home network and at its ranch in Hitchcock, Texas, just north of Galveston.
Back in the courtroom, the attorney for the defense questioned the veterinarian, proposing that the horses could have been poisoned over the years by a defoliant spread by the power company. “Then the answer would have been to move the horses,” the veterinarian snapped back. “These horses weren’t poisoned. They were starved. There is no evading that fact.”
The judge issued the final ruling, turning ownership of all the horses over to Habitat for Horses. “This is when the work really starts,” said Jerry Finch, the founder of Habitat for Horses. “There are 15 studs that must be gelded and gentled, babies that will be coming in a few months and all of them will need extensive rehabilitation to regain their lost health.”
“We don’t see them as numbers,” said Ms. Williams. “Each of these horses is unique, and each deserves the best life we can give them.” Four months later, all 27 horses had been adopted to new homes.
If you would like to become a part of Habitat for Horses’ foster home network, adopt a horse or offer your much needed financial assistance, please contact them through their website at http://www.habitatforhorses.org/ or call their toll-free number 866-434-5737.