Local Horse Rescue Offers Alternative to Slaughter

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Seattle PI, Candace Calloway Whiting, May 17, 2013

dakota-with-vet-431x600In 2004 this sensitive and kind horse, Dakota, was purchased for fifty cents per pound to prevent her and the foal she carried from being slaughtered. The farmer who owned her had wrung all the use he could from her, and even though she was malnourished and untrained, rather than surrender her for adoption he was determined to get the kill buyer price for her. A horse rescue organization stepped in, located an adopter, and arranged transportation for the horse.

At her new home, a veterinarian treated the mare’s  health issues, but could do nothing for her deflated spirit. “Give her time”, he advised the adopters.

She was turned out to pasture to rest and heal with a small herd of other rescues, and  a month later produced a fiery and energetic little foal. Gradually she gained confidence and trust in people.

It is hard to conceive that six weeks earlier this unborn foal would have met with a violent end in her mother’s womb – but without effective rescue groups that is exactly what would have happened to her, and tens of thousands of other horses as well.

Now the rescue groups are organizing into a larger safety net to help owners keep or place their horses, and hope to make sure that no horse faces brutal slaughter in the future.

It is odd that we have allowed it at all – at what point in American culture did we decide that horses were both companion animals and commodities?  Would we stand for that with the other animals that share our lives?  Would we take our pregnant dogs and cats somewhere to be shot in the head and their litters cut out – sometimes still alive – from their mothers’ bodies? And eaten? Of course not.

In the intervening years since Dakota was rescued horse slaughter has been in abeyance in this country – though kill buyers just ship the horses to Canada and Mexico.  Pro-slaughter advocates point their fingers at that fact and claim that ultimately horses suffer more with the long transport to countries that may be less regulated.

Because the American public has a tendency to turn a blind eye to the problem of what to do with horses that people can’t or won’t take care of, an opening is left for slaughter advocates to claim that there are no other options.

With the political pressure to reinstate horse slaughter (please see Obama Administration Blocks the Reinstatement of Horse Slaughter) a constant threat, rescue organizations needed to come up with a plan, and they have come up with an elegantly simple solution. Collect fees from breeders, create a fund, and disperse the resources as needed.

Allen Warren (courtesy Kitsap Sun)

Allen Warren (courtesy Kitsap Sun)

A variation on this idea was suggested by Allen Warren of the Horse Harbor Foundation, A Kitsap Peninsula rescue group, when divorce forced Dakota’s owner to find a new home for her and other rescue horses. With his own facilities full of horses needing homes, founder Allen Warren came up with a unique idea tailored to the owner’s situation and within weeks Dakota and two other mares had found a wonderful home.

That kind of flexibility and creativity is basic to the program espoused by Warren and explained in an article he wrote for The Horse:

Horses displaced by the economy over the past few years have forced equine rescue operators such as myself to not only expand our sanctuary capacities but also to find new ways to save many more horses than we have in the past.

Sponsored foster homes and new programs such as in-place rescues to help owners keep and support their horses with feed banks and other financial assistance have vastly expanded our capacity to improve horse welfare. For instance, the Oregon hay bank program alone (which provides owners with enough hay to keep their horses healthy during times of crisis), created and operated by horse rescuers, has kept almost 800 horses in their homes since 2009, and similar efforts are under way in other states.

…The bottom line: America’s equine rescue resource is much greater than previously reported and is capable of doing vastly more if supported by both the commercial equine industry and private horse owners. The equine rescue community could be the answer to the “unwanted horse problem” if given the chance and provided the resources.

Warren details how only rescue organizations which pass the standards of theGlobal Federation of Animal Sanctuaries will have access to support from funds collected by adding a small fee to horse breed registries. “Since all breed registries and owner organizations are committed to the welfare of their horses, let them simply add $25 to every registration fee dedicated specifically to rehoming and long-term care of horses in need. The five largest registries alone add almost 300,000 horses annually; that’s $7,500,000 a year.”, he writes.

Dakota and companions settling into their new home: Warren and others like him must sleep well at night, knowing how much they do for horses, and for the people forced by circumstance to give them up.

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AUTHOR: Jerry Finch
18 Comments
  • Robynne Catheron

    Pretty smart idea that’s been in the minds of many for years. Now let’s just see it in action. We still need to eliminate the demand, however; without demand for horsemeat, the supply will diminish.

    May 18, 2013
  • Amy Miller

    I love the idea. I would rather have my tax dollars go to this idea than to slaughter the mustangs or slaughter houses.

    May 18, 2013
  • Debbie Tracy

    Thanks to ALL that are helping so much for all the horses….

    What a wonderful idea, see instead of going down the dark path of horse slaughter, we could help even more with this program in place help horses and owners for the better good. positive outcome all around….. HOW would this process really get going?? Cause if you have to have congress sign off on this, you’ll be waiting a very long time as I am sure you know!! THIS IS PROMISEING ……..

    May 18, 2013
  • Susan Setzke

    Great idea and thank you to Allen Warren and people everywhere who help horses and encourage responsible and caring horse ownership and breeding practices.

    May 18, 2013
  • first, I do not believe that is the answer. Many many horses are going through the kill buyer’s gates and are of no descernable breed, further, we who breed our horses, need to be responsible for what we produce, and I offer a return on any horse that leaves here, whether I bred it , or it was a rescue. I am already appalled at the high registration prices, but I do pay them, many do NOT. and MANY MORE people would stop paying the fees. So, looks like a good easy fix, but it will actually create a bigger problem. The big name breeders will still pay, but the smaller ones will probably skip it.

    May 18, 2013
    • sherriey

      i have to agree with you. i use to breed Apps….that was back in the early eighties to late ninety’s. even back then, a lot of horses never got registered b/c it was too expensive. every yr the breed clubs raise membership and/or registration fees. people that own pure-bred horses aren’t even showing them in the club shows, attendance is way way down….some classes have even been cancelled for lack of contestants…again, too expensive. price of gas, and price to show under sometimes 4 judges at a time…cost quadrupling. so why bother registering a horse? more fun and less expensive showing at an open show locally. horse/foal doesn’t have to be a registered breed to show there. plus….many many breeders, like self, are not breeding any more. some b/c of economy…some, like self, b/c of unwanted horse issue and slaughter issue, even tho, like self, i have contracts stating i’ll buy back any and all foals that leave here/have left here….no matter their age or problems. i am a responsible owner and everyone of my foals (now horses) i know where it is and who owns it and how its doing.
      the point being is breeding is down, registrations are down, club/breed shows are down. registrations are down.
      so….this is a good idea, but we need a perfect world for it to work in….perfect, meaning, if it was 1985, it may work…but in 2013….things are way different!

      May 18, 2013
    • Kellee Garska

      Not to be rude, but the smaller breeders will have to be watched more closely then. If the big breeders have to do it, then all have to. It can’t be good for one and not the other. There’s always going to be someone somewhere looking for the perfect specimen of a particular breed. That’s a given, but it’s going to cost them to do it. We’ve got too many now, thru no fault of their own. The big breeders should be ashamed of themselves for being proslaughter. I find that to be so disgusting and repulsive, that I wouldn’t buy a purebred horse from a breeder.

      May 19, 2013
      • sherriey

        your not being rude….you have a very good point. but….outside of the US being a Police-State and Gov controlled…how can we make the small breeders register every foal they produce? they didn’t back when i use to breed…and things were better then…so what would force them to do it now.. small breeders have almost stopped breeding altogether. economy, to many unwanted horses (market glut), this issue with slaughter (opened many small breeders eyes as to what was going on behind the ‘barn’, so’s to speak), and last but not least….the BIG breeders have run them out with their hundreds of foals each yr! who, being small, can compete with that? yet….yet….small breeders are being blamed for all these unwanted horses out there…(come on….how can a small breeder produce hundreds of foals a year???? be real!) the small breeder is a dieing breed.
        but…i rank on…back to the question…how do we make all breeders register all horses they produce without bringing the gov into it…even if they were brought into it…how, without putting a guard at every small/large breeding facility….how would anyone know if a foal or two was born in that facility that yr???????
        see….impossible to monitor.

        May 19, 2013
  • I’m sorry but this idea is NOT Mr Warren’s at all but rather belongs to Christie Cotton who published this concept online when she began the nonprofit FOODSTAMPS FOR HORSES in 2008. She was devoted to finding legitimate answers to this problem and through her amazing research and hard work, came up with many solutions that would even help the Mustangs without taxpayer dollars.

    She and her Executive Board took her proposal everywhere; as a board member and the Florida Coordinator I have the lists of our contacts. We were laughed at both state and nationwide. We fought for years to pass the proposal along to other rescues, only to be ignored. Please contact me at Horsesisters@aol.com for a copy of her proposal with ALL of her great ways to help homeless horses. Now to implement the ideas.

    May 18, 2013
  • Debbie Olmsted

    Great idea! It would work.

    May 18, 2013
  • Daryl

    How wonderful you saved this mare who was so bad off and gave the foal a chance at life. i have my self bought 4 out of my 5 to save them, I get no help but I can’t do any more. Today it is so costly in the feed & care for them. No Slaughter for these animals I say, they have not done any thing to come to this end, such a horrible end.

    May 18, 2013
  • Mary Ann Gardne

    Wonderful Lets get this going!!

    May 18, 2013
  • There are so many ideas to gather “rescue” money from happy consumers. The entire pink ribbon program is just one thought -agina. A needle disposal fee? Even just for each Coggins would generate an immense fund. Its the administrative issues that are mind boggling. Christy Cotton has it broken down by state – and really there is nothing stopping anyone for trying something in their own county. Small hay banks are around…even horse rescues could apply for the Food Stamp program. It would be great to make this work without costing taxpayers. But purple ribbons on products would encourage horse lovers to pitch in as well. The ideas are endless.

    May 18, 2013
  • Kellee Garska

    It’s a wonderful idea. It still all boils down to the over breeding. At this point and time, with horse slaughter being the issue, and I’m entirely against it, there are enough horses out there for everyone without another one being born. Yes, they are cute and cuddly when they are small, etc….but they do grow and they eat more. Give a horse a home that needs a home. Stop the breeders, big and small from the over breeding, charge a stud fee that is higher than what it should be and the additional part of that fee goes to the fund for horses. It’s not the animal’s fault that it’s being bred over and over again. Go to any animal shelter and look at the puppies and kittens, same thing. Breeders need to take the responsibility and quit using the unwanted, unworthy foals as a tax write off. Let’s get control of the horses that are here before we start breeding more. There, I’ve said what’s on my mind and I feel better, but it doesn’t make things better, not yet, but it’s good to see that people are heading in the right direction.

    May 19, 2013
  • Arlene

    Awesome Idea , Start with AQHA !!!!!!

    May 19, 2013
  • Jess

    I think controlled breeding is a better solution. You are always going to have “backyard breeders”, but I,know the bigger farms are over producing. With embryo transfer, one can get SEVERAL foals in one year. It lowers the value of the horses produced, and creates a higher percentage of “trash.” We all know we still get undesirable results sometimes even breeding the best horses. There should be a cap on the number of embryos produced per mare. And on the rescue topic… Who is monitoring all the rescues? People don’t realize that some of these “rescue” places are actually horse hoarders or crazy people and the horses end up worse off than at the killers. I’m sorry, but there are simply too many unwanted, disfigured, or even mentally crazy horses for all the rescues to support. I am for the slaughter house, HOWEVER, I think we should focus more on getting some hard core rules and regulations set up, so that there are less good, usable horses going to waste. As for your fee, that’s great — but just as the story you provided, what about all the vet bills its going to take? Do we have volunteer vets? If so, definitely not enough. It’s a nice thought, but I’m sorry, its just not feasible.

    May 20, 2013
  • Daryl

    Jess have you been in side a slaughter house?
    If not you need to make a trip & see just what happens to these animals and how they are slaughtered. Have you seen the sights, heard the sounds, I think not. Nothing about slaughter is good or kind in amy way for any animal to leave this world. You don’t care about the horses at all do you? Some thing else has to be done for sure, we need to get lots of poeple together and come up with some ideas, but no slaughter for any horse.

    May 20, 2013
  • Ok~Jess

    Wow Jess I am glad you do not have that view of humanity.. Or do you ? Seems like you might want to think about that.

    May 24, 2013