Archive for Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Cases of horse neglect on the rise

Abandoned animals more common in tight economy

Steve and Vera Gannaway, who live southwest of Baldwin City, are pictured May 10 with a pair of horses they agreed to care for after the animals were abandoned on a ranch in rural Douglas County. The horses had been left without food or water. The Lawrence Humane Society has seen an increase in such abandonment cases in the area.

Steve and Vera Gannaway, who live southwest of Baldwin City, are pictured May 10 with a pair of horses they agreed to care for after the animals were abandoned on a ranch in rural Douglas County. The horses had been left without food or water. The Lawrence Humane Society has seen an increase in such abandonment cases in the area.

May 16, 2012

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Fenced in with nowhere to go, the two horses had nearly no chance of surviving.

“I just felt so outraged,” said Dori Villalon, director of the Lawrence Humane Society. “Horrific case of cruelty.”

These two emaciated horses were seized from an abandoned ranch in rural Douglas County by the Lawrence Humane Society recently. The ranch owner left the home in March and left the horses behind without food or water. Animal rights advocates say an increasing number of horses are being abandoned in the poor economy. The former owner could face animal cruelty charges.

These two emaciated horses were seized from an abandoned ranch in rural Douglas County by the Lawrence Humane Society recently. The ranch owner left the home in March and left the horses behind without food or water. Animal rights advocates say an increasing number of horses are being abandoned in the poor economy. The former owner could face animal cruelty charges.

Villalon shows pictures of a recent investigation into a rural Douglas County ranch, where the owner, who could face animal cruelty charges, left the ranch and two horses behind several months back. Before a report to the Humane Society, the horses had been left to fend for themselves without food or water.

The photos of the horses — 5-year-old mother and her 1-year-old offspring — show bones protruding. The animals were so emaciated, Villalon said, their breed couldn’t be determined.

The Humane Society has seen an increase in such horse abandonment cases in the area, which is also an increasing problem across the state and country. In 2011, the Humane Society responded to 13 cases of horse neglect or abandonment. In 2012, it has already responded to 12 calls.

Animal rights activists are scrambling to find temporary, and then permanent, homes for abandoned horses.

Karen Everhart, who runs Rainbow Meadows Equine Rescue and Retirement in Sedan, drove to Nevada this week to deliver a mustang that ended up at her ranch after it was abandoned.

Make the call

To report suspected animal abuse or neglect, call the Humane Society at 843-6835.

“We’re over the top with horses,” said Everhart, whose ranch can handle about 40 horses.

They’re always full, and there’s always a waiting list. A week doesn’t go by, she said, that she’s not contacted by an area sheriff’s office trying to find a home for an abandoned horse.

Christine Mensch, owner of the Fox Eye Ranch northwest of Lawrence, blames the tight economic times for leaving families in a pinch and unable to come up with the roughly $2,500 a year it costs to care for a horse.

“It’s all about the money,” Mensch said.

Careless over-breeding has further glutted the horse market. Older horses and those that aren’t show or breeding quality are difficult to find homes for.

“They bred and bred and bred,” Mensch said.

For some owners unable to care for their horses, the answer is the “sale barn,” where “kill buyers,” as Mensch calls them, purchase horses at cut-rate prices: sometimes less than $100 a horse.

The horse meat will eventually be shipped overseas, but, before that happens, a horse can find itself in brutal and inhumane conditions, Everhart said.

More than 100,000 horses were slaughtered in the United States until 2007, when cuts to federal inspection funds eliminated legal horse slaughterhouses in the country. So today, horses must be shipped across the border to Canada or Mexico for slaughter. Often overloaded in poorly ventilated trailers, it can be a tough final trip for horses.

“This is the most egregious thing you can do to a horse,” Everhart said.

Options

Inspection funding for horse slaughterhouses was recently reinstated on the federal level, and the practice may see a comeback in the U.S.

If it does, it presents a controversial option for unwanted horses in the country.

Many horse advocate groups decry slaughter entirely, citing inhumane conditions reported in horse slaughterhouses in the country before federal inspection dollars were cut.

“The worst answer is slaughter,” Everhart said.

Villalon and Mensch, however, cautiously disagree, and both say domestic slaughter could help ease the current burden of horse overpopulation.

“I would prefer that we not have to slaughter horses,” Mensch said. But “this is reality. You can’t rescue all of them.”

But there would need to be improvements to the slaughter process, such as those made in the cattle industry.

“As long as it’s done in a humane way,” Mensch said.

But there are ways to avoid slaughter altogether, and the main goal is to ensure horses aren’t suffering, Villalon said.

She quickly brushes away arguments that the economy leads to poor animal care. There’s simply no excuse for it, she said.

With a network of animal rights organizations in the state and area, Villalon encouraged anyone struggling to seek help sooner rather than later. Organizations can sometimes assist in matching unwanted horses with willing takers, or provide some form of hay or veterinary assistance.

“There are options out there,” she said.

Comments

Lawrence Morgan 3 years, 1 month ago

I would like someone, who knows and loves horses, to write an article about them in detail. This would help a person like me, who likes horses but have never been around them, except maybe at a fair.

And I would think that some of these horses would be great for kids, who could come out for a weekend.

Who wants to write about horses in a loving but comprehensive way?

lzgoodwin 3 years, 1 month ago

I am the owner of two horses and am very much against horse slaughter here in America. In the US, our horses are not raised for human consumption; they are full of Bute and other medicines that are dangerous to humans, vaccines, fly sprays and dewormers. Regulating breeders is the answer down the line. We simply cannot slaughter our way out of horse overpopulation any more than we can euthanize our way out of dog and cat overpopulation; although, some congressmen, state legislators, and big-monied ranching organizations would have you think this is the answer. Don't buy into it!

seriouscat 3 years, 1 month ago

This is a very sad story and no doubt some people will simply blame the anti-slaughter laws as the problem rather than a fundamentally flawed attitude of societally sanctioned animal exploitation and abuse.

I don't have the resources to care for a horse myself but I will support anyone whose efforts are going to humane housing and care! No creature anywhere should suffer like this because of human hubris. So sad!

salinalawrence 3 years, 1 month ago

Lift the ban on them and I will totally take a neglected horse! I have a big backyard and plenty of disposable income for food and living costs. You can even tax me, make me buy a permit, and make sure I'm doing it right. I would be a drop in the pond of people that would do this. Problem solved.

LadyJ 3 years, 1 month ago

Want to hear about horse abuse, before you, or your spouse, takes that next dose of Premarin, Google "premarin horse abuse" It will open your eyes. Also, since those horses must be kept pregnant at all times, what do you think happens to the foals? "Each year, 70,000 to 80,000 mares are impregnated and placed in stalls so tiny that they are barely able to turn around or lie down comfortably. They are placed in a urine collection harness and rarely taken off the "production line" for exercise or any other reason. Straps firmly hold a rubber cup on the mare's urethra to catch every drop of the precious urine. The continuous standing on concrete causes swollen legs and crippling. Urinary tract infections are not uncommon and many of these horses die as a result of the stress, only to be replaced by another "disposable" horse. Since the FARMERS ARE PAID ACCORDING TO THE CONCENTRATION OF THE ESTROGEN IN THE URINE, many mares are given less water than they would normally get. This increases not only the estrogen concentration of the urine but also the bottom line." Many owners have had their beloved mares stolen and sold to make Premarin. I'm sure to some of those suffering mares, slaughter would be a welcome release.

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