Unwanted Horses Need A Broader Solution

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Throughout the USA, you'll find neglected, abandoned horses ? many of them old, sick and unsound ? clinging to life. Fortunately, many good-hearted people are doing the best they can for those horses through horse-rescue organizations.

But the collapse in March of the Thoroughbred Retirement Fund (TRF), considered the gold standard of horse rescues, vividly displayed how woefully inadequate our horse-rescue organizations are at dealing with the 170,000 horses that become ?unwanted? each year, according to the Unwanted Horse Coalition (UHC). If the TRF couldn?t afford to keep only 1,000 horses, can any organization be up to the task'

I've written several blogs about this problem (http://blogs.equisearch.com/johnstrassburger) because I'm concerned, as every owner of the 9.2 million U.S. horses should be. As one solution, I proposed that equine welfare groups and veterinary schools and clinics form a coalition to create a nationwide humane-euthanasia program to provide the service at a low cost. For instance, the Horse Plus Humane Society in Oroville, Calif., has a monthly funded euthanasia clinic.

The Front Range Equine Rescue in Larkspur, Colo., offers 30% reimbursement for gelding a horse and a 50% reimbursement for euthanasia and hauling away the body. And the National Equine Resource Network, based in Encinitas, Calif., offers grants to charitable organizations for gelding horses and for euthanasia programs. The UHC website (www.unwantedhorsecoalition.org) lists six other organizations with programs like this.

Getting a national low-cost euthanasia program working faces two big challenges. The first is a change of attitude ? for horse owners and for breed association leaders.

Many horse owners recoil at the mention of euthanasia. But everyone needs to understand the resource challenges of keeping horses in an adoption facility, accept that we simply can't keep thousands of horses, and accept the basic humanity of ending a neglected horse's life.

Breed associations should alter their goal of producing ever more horses to improving the quality of fewer horses and the quality of those horses? lives.

The second challenge is funding. Every breed registry must contribute. For instance, the AQHA could double its registration fee of $25 and donate half to help these horses.

Sports organizations like the U.S. Equestrian Federation could collect a small annual fee from every member, and all racetracks must contribute to the future of the horses they depend upon. They could charge a small fee every time each horse races, and they should contribute a small amount of their daily betting handle, which could be millions.

Some folks will object, asking why they should pay more to allow irresponsible owners to flush away horses without penalty. I understand. But we still need to help those 170,000 unwanted horses, now.

The equine rescue structure we have can't handle all this, and these horses shouldn't have to wait. So one solution is to expand great programs that are already working. Got a better one'