Thursday, December 23, 2010

Horse vets call for reopening of abattoirs, as taxpayers pay to care for mistreated, forsaken

The keynote speaker at the 56th Annual American Association of Equine Practitioners convention, held Dec. 4-8 in Baltimore, was verterianian Tom Lenz. His address was titled "Horse Welfare Wars: When Emotion and Fact Collide," reports Erica Larson, News Editor for The Horse. Citing the closing of American equine processing plants as a central issue that led to the proliferation of unwanted horses and equine welfare situations, Lenz said it is "complicated by a worldwide love affair with the horse. Uninformed people with few to no ties to the equine industry care for horses and want to have a voice in how they are treated."

The equine practitioners' group "is not pro-slaughter," Lenz said, noting that AAEP supports the Horse Transportation Safety Act of 2009 but opposes HR 503, "which would outlaw the processing of horses for human consumption, because there are no provisions in the bill to provide for the care of unwanted horses, to designate an agency to enforce the law or funding to support them." He said reopening the plants might not be the ideal option, but would aid greatly in controlling the number of unwanted horses until the industry can take other steps to reduce the problem. He said one of the simplest solutions to abandonment and neglect is responsible ownership. But mass behavior modification is never simple. (Read more)

Snohomish County, Washington, is trying to decide how much to spend caring for abandoned horses, reports Noah Haglund for Horse cases are more expensive compared with puppy mills or cat-hoarding, said county animal-control manager Vicki Lubrin. Beyond food and shelter, horses often require pricey veterinary care and foot trimming that Lubrin said costs about $18 a day.

The county had to deal with three recent incidents for which it was not prepared. Last year, 19 horses were seized in one location, costing $60,000 for upkeep until they were adopted. In 2008, the county seized five horses from one owner and it cost the county $55,000. In a third case, 45 horses were reported to authorities as neglected, but animal-control officers worked with the owner to disperse the horses to better care.

Councilman Dave Somers, who owns two horses, worries that the county will become hesitant to step in because of the costs. Somers suggests the county consider forming partnerships with nonprofit horse-rescue groups. Governments "have the authority to do something, the rescuers have the knowledge," said Katie Merwick, founder of Second Chance Ranch, where up to 100 unwanted horses are housed. (Read more)

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