On March 16, under the authority and request of the SPCA Serving Erie County (NY) members of the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response Team were dispatched to assist in the sheltering management and care of 73 horses seized from what is believed to be the area's largest farm animal rescue ever. The animals were found living in deplorable and extremely unsanitary conditions on a farm in East Aurora, NY (about 20 miles southeast of Buffalo).
Jeff Eyre, the Northeast Director of the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response Team, was sent to the scene with other ASPCA staff skilled in horse handling. Over the past eight weeks, the group has played a vital role in helping to feed, water and clean the animals. More importantly, the team has spent time nurturing the horses, helping them to rebuild their broken spirits. On April 30, the mission came to a close, as the remaining horses were transported to new foster homes.
"Our on-site response is complete," says Jeff. "We achieved our goal to rehabilitate these horses, both physically and behaviorally. These are now happy horses, and I could not have asked for a better ending."
The following is the final in a series of field reports from Jeff on the ground in Erie County.
Final Field Report
We just finished loading the last seven mares onto the trailer—they will be making the hour drive to their new foster home. A total of 69 horses have been relocated to new homes over the past few weeks, and this group was our last haul. It has been through the great efforts of our team—including members of the ASPCA, American Humane Association, Days End and the SPCA of Erie County—that the moves went smoothly and all of the horses were rehomed without incident or injury.
Overall, our response has dramatically improved the lives of these animal victims—physically, behaviorally and mentally. I can remember the first days after rescue, when the horses would react to us with horror and fear. They were emaciated, dirty and their manes full of tangles and mats. Today, these healthy animals can be gently walked with a halter lead and approach humans with interest and affection. I have spent more than a month working with these abused and broken animals and have watched them recover little by little each day. I can now only describe my final goodbye as moving.
It was during the morning feeding—when my favorite sound of the horses munching hay filled the air. As I approached each stall, a head would appear, and I would receive a gentle nuzzle from a nose. There were no flared eyes, no ears pulled back, no pinning against the stall walls—these horses were at peace. They were comfortable in their surroundings and with me. At the end of this journey, I know that these are happy horses with enriched lives—and I could not have asked for a better farewell.