An ASPCA pilot program focused on providing open-admission relinquishment, compassionate euthanasia, and safety net options for horse owners is helping equines whose owners need these options.
The ASPCA Regional Support Center first launched in the greater Dallas area in July 2018 to help rehome equines in need and provide euthanasia for those who need a humane end-of-life option. Through partnerships with a veterinary clinic and rehoming partners, equines were cared for at the clinic and transitioned to their next home or career.
That pilot helped nearly 60 equines in less than six months and taught us lessons about equines and people in need that will help focus our programs and grantmaking.
A second pilot was opened in the Oklahoma City area, offering similar services to equine owners in 9 counties. Open since July 2019, the OKC Regional Support Center has helped nearly 200 horses. The learnings from Oklahoma and Texas continue to point to a real need for equine owners to have options similar to those of dog and cat owners.
Learnings, Opportunities and Call-to-Action
We’ve learned a lot of valuable lessons that have helped us focus on developing future plans and expanding our programing. These are our 3 key learnings, and we need your help to continue this momentum into your community.
Learning: Reasons for Owner Relinquishment
Of the horses brought to the centers for relinquishment, the top reasons the owner needs to relinquish their horse has little to do with issues (behavioral or medical) related to the equine. Instead, owner concerns, including human health problems, age of the owner, moving, and financial issues (such as job loss), are among the top reasons owners cite for relinquishment.
It is important to note that in some cases, individuals are not necessarily in any financial trouble—they simply are no longer physically capable of caring for their horses and have no one who could help them do so.
The Opportunity We See
We see an opportunity to decrease risk by developing programs to help people transition equines before the horse owner's health has deteriorated to the point where it negatively impacts the animal's well-being.
Call to Action
We would love to hear from you if you have developed a support program for aging equine owners in your community. Please email us.
Opening doors to owners needing to relinquish will decrease risk more than almost any other factor we have examined as horses can be supported quickly and easily through rehoming, and the horse is not at risk of neglect or ending up in the pipeline.
Learning: Length of Consideration Time Before Relinquishment
Most people relinquishing an animal had been thinking about it for at least six months—with many considering rehoming for over a year. This can be detrimental to horses’ health, and/or increase the resources needed to successfully rehome them, if they have medical or behavioral needs that go unaddressed or worsen during this time; or if they’re suffering from painful or chronic conditions.
This is powerful and compelling information because it suggests the owner's strong commitment to finding a safe landing for an equine in their care. These are people who care about their animals and deserve our compassion, not our judgment, and we simply need to help them sooner in their process.
The Opportunity We See
Opening our doors to owners needing to relinquish will decrease risk more than almost any other factor we have examined and serves as a testament to the importance of access to open-admission options for owners.
Call to Action
If you are interested in shifting to an owner-relinquish intake model, we would love to hear from you, as we may be able to help support your shift. Please email us.