It seems like it was back in the Dark Ages when Habitat for Horses was first started, although it was only in 1997 when we took in our first horses in response to a plea from a local family that simply couldn’t handle seeing a skinny horse a few houses down the street from them. In 1998 we applied for and received our non-profit status, took a number of Equine Cruelty Investigation courses and starting applying to local law enforcement agencies to let us help them handle their horse cases.
During those times most local law enforcement agencies didn’t touch large animals. Excuses of, “he’s old, that’s why he’s skinny,” and “I’m about to buy feed and hay,” were generally accepted and neglected horses were left alone to starve. While we met with some resistance, most officers accepted us with open arms. All we required from them was to have an officer at the scene and have the same officer appear in court. We did the rest, from transportation, housing, feeding, medical workup, farrier work, court appearance and testimony to finding an adopter.
Word circulated quickly and soon we had officers calling us, “just to take a look at some horses.” From those first few months of becoming established and being professional in everything we did, the calls for assistance seemed to explode. The reputation of Habitat for Horses continued to grow as an organization that was more than willing to assist law enforcement not just in the legal aspects of enforcement, but in providing education to horse owners who wanted to keep their horses healthy but did not have the knowledge of equine husbandry necessary.