ASPCA President & CEO Matthew Bershadker (right) on location at a dog fighting bust earlier this year.
Guest blog by ASPCA President & CEO Matthew Bershadker
The holidays are a big distraction this time of year, but all the more reason to keep our eyes on the ball – and in this case, on neglected horses in need.
As you may know, in November, our Field Investigations and Response (FIR) Team traveled to Spokane, Washington, to assist Spokane County Regional Animal Protective Services (SCRAPS) with the sheltering and daily care of 63 horses seized as part of an animal cruelty investigation.
So while many of us were celebrating Thanksgiving, the FIR team was on the ground helping to provide continuing care for these severely neglected animals (among many ASPCA staffers on the job that day). Sixty-two of the horses are responding well to treatment and are in recovery, while one, sadly, did not survive.
The negligent owner is still missing; a hearing to determine custody of the horses will be held on December 16. But our priority continues to be the health and welfare of these animals. We can’t undo their suffering, but with your support we can show them care and love, and put them on a brighter path.
Rescuing this many large animals is, of course, no easy task. So my big thanks go to SCRAPS, to the ASPCA field teams who put these horses before their own holidays, and to you as well for making such important work possible.
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Today the ASPCA Equine Welfare Ambassadors issued an open letter [PDF] in response to recent developments in ongoing litigation brought by several animal welfare organizations to halt horse slaughter for human consumption in the United States. While an emergency injunction in a U.S. Court of Appeals has temporarily stalled horse slaughter plants from opening on American soil, that injunction could be lifted at any moment. The Ambassadors are calling on all animal advocates to take action to stop the inhumane slaughter industry by supporting the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act and promoting responsible horse ownership, rescue and adoption.
The ASPCA Equine Welfare Ambassadors are respected equestrians and horse experts committed to animal welfare—and include two-time Olympic U.S. Team gold medalist and individual bronze medalist Beezie Madden, several ASPCA Maclay National Champions, and journalist and author Jill Rappaport. They are urging Congress to pass the SAFE Act to ban horse slaughter in the U.S. and transport to slaughter outside the U.S. once and for all.
As individuals who revere, care for, and work with horses, they can speak to the importance of humane treatment of these special animals. They have joined with the ASPCA in promoting and supporting the work of the robust network of horse rescue organizations across the country. Having witnessed undercover footage showing repeated cruelties in past American, government-regulated horse slaughter plants, the Ambassadors state in the letter:
We have seen the horrifying video and photo documentation from past horse slaughter plants that were on American soil and government-regulated—horse slaughter is utterly, unmistakably inhumane . . . [C]ommercial slaughter is not about providing a kind death. It’s only about destroying as many horses as quickly as possible and making a fast profit.
The letter also acknowledges food safety concerns as another reason to ban horse slaughter.
It goes on to state:
For the roughly 130,000 horses that suffer at the hands of slaughter annually—a fraction of the 9 million horses in America—we have the power to take back the reins and lead at-risk horses to safety. Let’s refuse to allow commercial slaughter to be a convenient way out, and instead demand responsible ownership and promote rescue and adoption, just like we do for dogs and cats.
The ASPCA’s Field Investigations and Response team is currently on the ground in Spokane, Washington, assisting Spokane County Regional Animal Protective Services (SCRAPS) with the sheltering and daily care of 63 horses seized Nov. 15 as part of an animal cruelty investigation.
ASPCA responders will remain in Spokane, an ASPCA Partner Community, for at least the next 30 days to nurse the horses to health before their placement with various rescue groups for adoption. The ASPCA is also providing a $5,000 grant to SCRAPS to help cover expenses related to the horses’ care.
SCRAPS officials discovered the severely emaciated and dehydrated horses, who had no access to water or acceptable food, on an abandoned property. Eleven horses in critical condition were taken to a local veterinarian for immediate medical attention. The remaining horses are being cared for at the Spokane County fairgrounds by SCRAPS and ASPCA responders. Agencies assisting the ASPCA with care and sheltering include: Days End Rescue (Woodbine, Maryland); Code 3 (Longmont, Colorado); Equine Emergency Rescue Unit (Overland Park, Kansas); and Washington State Animal Response Team (Enumclaw, Washington).
Local authorities have issued a warrant for the arrest of the property owner on charges of animal cruelty in the first degree and transporting or confining animals in an unsafe manner. The suspect has a history of animal cruelty charges, but has ceased appearing in court for proceedings related to these prior charges. Her current whereabouts are unknown.
Max, a former champion living in Arizona, was healthy and happy before his owner was forced to give him up.
As the deadly snow storms that have already hit the Great Plains illustrate, winter is coming. It won't be long before much of the country is buried under a blanket of white.
This is the time of year equine rescues, sanctuaries, and community hay banks serving needy horse owners stock up on hay for the entire winter. The ASPCA assists these groups through grants made possible by our members’ compassion and generosity, ensuring that horses don't suffer and starve.
One such group is the Arizona Coalition for Equines (ACE), which received a $3,000 grant from the ASPCA in November 2012. These are just a few of the lives ACE was able to touch with that funding:
Slammed by foreclosure on her home and forced to move after the death of her mother, a woman living on disability ran out of money to feed her two horses. She turned to ACE for a helping hand, saying she would rather feed her horses than herself. ACE responded with a month’s worth of hay and settled her unpaid feed bill, giving her time to get back on her feet. Her horses remain in excellent condition.
A disabled veteran on a fixed income asked ACE for help when his horse became unable to walk. Sometimes feeding his horses before himself, he was desperate to get veterinary care but unable to pay the upfront costs. With ACE assistance, a veterinarian did a complete examination and diagnosed thrush, a front hoof abscess and a possible pelvic injury. Treatment provided immediate relief.
The greatest success story belongs to Max, a 30-year-old former champion show horse (pictured) who had been owner-released to a commercial stable due to financial hardship. His former owner was devastated when he went to visit Max months later and found him close to death—he had been left to starve. The man reached out to ACE, which rescued Max and covered the cost of his foster care until a new forever home was found.
The ASPCA is saddened by the loss of one of Congress’ most dedicated animal welfare advocates: Representative C.W. Bill Young (FL-13). As the longest serving Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Young led a career filled with compassionate actions for animals.
Rep. Young was well known for his dedication in the fight to stop the brutal practice of horse slaughter. In addition to his consistent support of authorizing legislation, like the SAFE Act, to ban horse slaughter, Rep. Young was also a staunch ally to horses on the House Appropriations Committee. In June of this year, Rep. Young cosponsored an amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations bill for 2014 that would prevent federal dollars from being spent on horse meat inspections, language that would keep horse slaughter plants from reopening in the United States. Thanks to his leadership, the amendment was swiftly adopted into the FY 14 Agriculture Appropriations bill by the committee.
Rep. Young, a member of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, advocated for many animal welfare issues during his 42-years of service in Congress. A longtime leader on legislation to combat puppy mills, Rep. Young joined as an original cosponsor of the PUPS Act this Congress, legislation that would close loopholes in the existing law and improve conditions for dogs in commercial breeding establishments.
In addition to his leadership on these key efforts, Rep. Young supported many other animal welfare initiatives over the course of his career, including legislation to combat animal fighting, stop horse soring, and protect America’s wild horses.
The ASPCA is grateful to Rep. Young for his many years of compassionate service in Congress, and remembers him for standing up in defense of our nation’s animals. His memory and legacy will long be cherished.