From the start, the ASPCA has put horses at the heart of what we do.
Today we are aimed squarely at improving equine welfare through increasing adoption and transitioning of horses, increasing safety net support and enhancing anti-cruelty efforts from boots-on-the ground work to strong legislative efforts. We work collaboratively with other groups to develop innovative partnerships to reach those goals.
How did we get here? In 2017 we re-examined our equine work with an aim to increase its impact. We studied available literature, examined grant data, conducted research, communicated with rescues, animal welfare groups and equine industry leaders—all to inform the development of programs with the greatest measurable impact for horses.
Our long-term outcome is clear and simple: good welfare for all equines. While a lofty goal, it was chosen specifically because it is the right result to aim for and it is unifying. Those involved with equines may differ on the way to best achieve the goal but agree on the goal itself.
For example, while many of the groups we partner with share our philosophy and objectives legislatively—be it our stance against horse slaughter or other legislative efforts—some of our partners differ. In almost all cases, those that sit on the other side of these legislative efforts do so not because they wish harm to equines. Of course, there are the bad actors, but the vast majority of people, especially those within the equine industry, are motivated with welfare in mind, even if we don’t agree with their conclusion. They too want good welfare for horses, and it is with this shared goal that we find many other important opportunities for partnership. We will continue to work just as hard as ever in our legislative efforts to ban horse slaughter and to end other forms of abuse. However, we believe we can find common ground with partners who share our goal of wanting good welfare for all equines. In fact, we feel it is our duty to strive to find that common ground and to work to expand it, for the sake of the horses we seek to help.
We recognize that these partnerships are quite novel for the field and our strategy is unique, but it is for that reason, among others, that these partners are vital. We do not believe we can solve all the challenges for horses alone—we must work together with stakeholders with whom we don’t have perfect alignment. We must harness all our energy and resources to bring about the larger paradigm shift needed to ensure that horses have good welfare in our society.
Today, the ASPCA has three main equine-related goals:
Helping Horses Find Homes
Many horses across the country are at risk of homelessness and poor welfare as they move from one career to the next. The ASPCA aims to help horses transition seamlessly to new careers and safe homes. We are focusing specifically on increasing adoptions, as that is the most direct way to decrease risk for those horses. We believe it is possible to significantly improve adoption numbers while still finding excellent, safe homes for horses.
One way we hope to accomplish this goal is by partnering with The Right Horse Initiative to increase the number of successful adoptions in the country each year.
We are also shifting the focus of our annual national Help a Horse Home: ASPCA Equine Adoption Challenge to elevate the lifesaving work that equine organizations do to find homes for horses year-round. In our first year alone, contestants adopted out well over 1000 equines in just two months. For each one of those horses, that is a tremendously positive change.
One early partnership with American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), American Horse Council and The Right Horse Initiative helped us all better understand the intake and outcomes of horses in rescue, shelters and sanctuaries. Together we have launched the Equine Welfare Data Collective led by the United Horse Coalition (formally the Unwanted Horse Coalition). Having more granular information on how many horses are in the rescue system will help us help more horses.
Keeping Horses Safe
Our research shows that for many horse owners, lack of access to affordable veterinary care in times of financial hardship puts horses at risk for poor welfare and homelessness. Our equine safety net programs are designed to keep horses and their owners together, provide humane end-of-life options or find a new and loving home for the horse.
One way we are working to provide more options for horse owners is through a collaborative pilot project with veterinarians and global animal health company Zoetis and AAEP, where veterinarians identify and provide services to those in need of support, to increase the likelihood that horses can remain in their current homes.
The ASPCA operated the first ambulance for injured horses, a full two years before New York City’s Bellevue hospital put the first ambulance for humans into service. Eight years later, Henry Bergh invented a canvas sling to rescue horses, which was later used on the battlefields of Europe during World War I.
We are also piloting open admission models that provide a safe place for owners to bring horses they are unable to keep, veterinary care or other safety net resources to allow those horses to stay in their homes. We can further decrease the risk for equines by providing relinquishment opportunities and euthanasia services for those in need.
We have also partnered with American Horse Council to fund the Equine Universal Microchip Lookup Tool which will allow individuals to easily look up and identify equines through their microchip number and provide an easy way to identify horses who may be enrolled in safety net programs. This can ultimately ensure that horses who become lost, at risk or otherwise vulnerable can find their way home to an owner who wants them.
Combating Cruelty and Responding to Disasters
The ASPCA has always been at the forefront of disaster response and cruelty intervention. This past year our Field Investigation and Response Team helped animals, including horses, displaced by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and by fires and mudslides in California.
We will continue our boots on the ground work, ensuring we are collecting vital data to continually improve our response efforts and better identify opportunities for communities to engage in successful anti-cruelty investigations. Our Government Relations Team has worked to strengthen laws at the state and federal level to provide tools for law enforcement that will encourage more robust and thorough treatment of equine cruelty and neglect cases.
We have continued to lead the efforts on Capitol Hill to ensure that no horses in this country wind up slaughtered for human consumption. We have championed the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, a bipartisan bill that bans the slaughter or horses in the U.S. and the export of horses for slaughter in other countries. We also have spearheaded work with the House and Senate Appropriations committee to prevent new horse slaughterhouses from cropping up on U.S. soil.
And we are working to improve the treatment of our wild horse population. Separate from domestic horses, these animals are protected by federal law, yet the implementation of that policy has put them at risk rather than truly protecting them. We are working with the Bureau of Land Management, state officials, and Congress to advocate for effective, humane management options that will ensure our wild horses are not sent off to slaughter or killed as a method of population control.
Any advocates interested in helping us achieve these policy goals should join our Horse Action Team (HAT) team and help us enact policies to protect domestic and wild horse populations and become an Equine Ambassador.
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