Survey: Closing of processing facilities among causes of swelling horse surplus
Recently released survey results assembled for the American Horse Council's Unwanted Horse Coalition indicate that many horse owners and persons involved in the equine industry think the closing of the U.S. horse processing facilities to be a "ma...
Recently released survey results assembled for the American Horse Council's Unwanted Horse Coalition indicate that many horse owners and persons involved in the equine industry think the closing of the U.S. horse processing facilities to be a "major contributor" to the reported unwanted horse issue.
Also cited were changes in breed demand, indiscriminate breeding and the high costs of euthanasia and carcass disposal. The survey was conducted from late 2008 to early 2009 by an independent market research company. More than 23,000 horse owners, persons in the equine industry and others participated in the 2009 Unwanted Horse Survey, last held three years before.
According to coalition director Ericka Caslin, one of the main goals of the survey was to gain an understanding of what the possible solutions might be.
"If we don't have solutions, then we can't help with the problem," she says.
The most popular solution suggested by survey respondents is to "educate owners to purchase and own responsibly." After that, the most common response is to increase the ability of rescue and adoption facilities to care for the unwanted horses.
Reopening U.S. horse plants is third most accepted, just ahead of increasing options and resources for euthanizing horses.
The Unwanted Horse Coalition is taking the responses to heart, recognizing the needs of horse rescue and retirement facilities. Its survey found that 63 percent of the facilities polled reported that they are at or near capacity and, on average, turn away 38 percent of the horses brought to them.
"What we are doing is trying to find ways that we can actually help the rescue facilities around the country," Caslin says.
The coalition is surveying the facilities to see what they need to better accommodate horses.
Caslin also is stepping up efforts to increase knowledge within the equine industry as to how to begin efforts to help with the problem. The coalition is instructing organizations on how to "create a program such as designating an unwanted horse coordinator for each organization and how to raise funds for your organizations, for the purpose of unwanted horses or horse welfare," she says.
The coalition also is supporting efforts to give clinics on euthanasia and immunization and has published a free "best practices" manual, which suggests solutions to the problem and what people and organizations can do to get involved. The manual is available at www.unwantedhorsecoalition.org .
"The more we can do to educate people and spread the word about unwanted horses, the more people we can get involved," Caslin says.
- Most horse-owning respondents are in favor of reopening U.S. horse processing plants. Most nonhorse-owning respondents are not.
- About 87 percent of respondents agreed that, in the past year, the issue of unwanted horses has become "a big problem." Only 22 percent of them agreed with that statement three years ago.
- More than 90 percent of participants think the number of unwanted, neglected and abused horses is increasing.
- Most consider the economic downturn to be a significant contributor to the unwanted horse problem.