More About My Plan For Unwanted Horses

In mid-May I wrote a blog called ?I’ll Propose a Plan for Unwanted Horses,? in which I outlined my idea for a coalition of horse groups to deal with the problem by sponsoring a low-cost euthanasia program. I expected?and hoped?to get a lot of comments and objections. But, instead, I’ve gotten no comments at all. I’m suspecting one or two reasons for that. It could be because you folks read my proposal and thought, ?that’s a good idea? and wrote nothing. Or it could be a technical problem?the techies at AIM have been moving these blogs around, and I’m not convinced the comments always show up where I look for them. So this week I’m going to advance my thoughts a little further. To refresh your memory, I proposed that equine welfare groups and veterinary schools and clinics form a coalition to create a nationwide humane-euthanasia program that would provide the service at a very low cost ($100 or less). The Unwanted Horse Coalition, which is part of the American Horse Council, has been at the forefront of this problem for the better part of this decade, and their 2009 study shows that the high cost of euthanasia and carcass removal is one of the top five reasons horses get neglected or abandoned. So I would think the two most obvious groups to band together to get this started are the Unwanted Horse Coalition and the American Association of Equine Practitioners, of which every veterinary school and clinic is a member. I’m suggesting that folks from the UHC and the AAEP put their heads together and figure out how to humanely reduce the number of these horses through euthanasia. We can all agree that too many people who shouldn’t own horses do own them and that education about the realities of horse ownership is critical for the future. But the UHC figured in their 2009 study that about 170,000 unwanted horses crop up each year, and that’s a number that’s a problem right now, a number for which prevention is too late. it’s also a number that adoption centers and other well-meaning but small horse-welfare groups absolutely can’t handle. And it’s a number that even horse-slaughter facilities couldn?t completely handle?if we still had them. And I’m afraid that we’re going to have to accept that political reality has ensured that they’re not coming back. There are two major requirements for getting a national low-cost euthanasia program started and working. The first is a change of attitude?on the part of horse owners and on the part of the leaders of breed associations. I’m talking primarily about the attitude of responsible horse owners, who often reflexively recoil at any mention of euthanasia. All horse owners need to understand the financial and other resource challenges of keeping horses in any adoption facility and accept that large numbers of horses simply can’t live in them. They have to accept the basic humanity of ending an injured or old horse’s life. And breed associations have to spin their view or goal 180 degrees. Instead of being focused on producing ever more horses, they should be focusing on how to promote the quality of their horses and the quality of those horses? lives, in a wide range of ways. And that leads us to the very tangible requirement of funding this program: ?I believe that every single breed organization, from the giant American Quarter Horse Association to the smallest breed group must help underwrite this. The AQHA needs to at least double its laughably low registration fee of $25 per horse, and it (and every other breed group) should charge an annual ?end-of-life? fee per horse registered with them. I’m suggesting a fee of $5 per horse?a fee that’s not going to change our lives but could change the comfort of many horses. I think sports organizations like the U.S. Equestrian Federation should collect a similar annual fee from every member, and I strongly believe that race tracks (Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse, Arabian and Standardbred) should all be contributing to the future of the horses they depend upon. They could charge a small fee for every horse stabled at a track (or every time a horse races), and they should transfer a small amount of their daily betting handle to this program. These contributions would add up to millions of dollars a year. Perhaps you’re wondering what the funding is needed for’ This program would need money because we can’t ask our veterinarians to euthanize unwanted horses for free and someone needs to be paid to remove the carcass and take it to a rendering plant. Would this quickly eliminate the problem of unwanted horses’ Admittedly, no. But it would address a number of issues, and I think that in a few years it would help the number of unwanted horses shrink. Your thoughts’

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