Alternatives to Auction and Slaughter
You've decided you can no longer keep your horse—whether you have outgrown his usefulness or can no longer afford his care, it's up to you to make the right decision about his future. Many healthy equines, including ex-racehorses, adopted wild horses, and horses from riding schools, camps, dude ranches and backyards, are denied the right to live out their final days in peace and comfort.
Each year in the U.S., approximately 100,000 "at-risk" horses are sold at auction or directly to "killer buyers." They are stuffed into over-crowded trailers and forced to endure days of traveling with no food or water—ultimately ending up at the slaughterhouse, their bodies destined for foreign meat markets. Learn more about the issue of horse slaughter.
What Is an "At-Risk" Horse?
An at-risk horse is any equine, regardless of age, breed, size, athletic ability, or success in the show ring or racing world, who becomes in danger of:
- being caught in the cycle of homelessness
- being abandoned by his owner
- being sent to auction where he may be sold to an unkind owner or bound for slaughter
- becoming a victim of neglect or cruelty
If circumstances arise that prohibit you from caring for your horse, there are options to consider before relinquishing him to auction or slaughter.
Re-home your horse. If you have made up your mind to relinquish your horse, consider re-homing him. Begin by inquiring with your own personal contacts—your veterinarian, farrier, friends, family, co-workers, etc. You may also wish to list your horse on adoption search sites such as Petfinder.com. By re-homing your horse to a carefully screened caretaker, you can ensure that your horse finds a good match.
Lease your horse. Leasing involves giving someone else access to your horse for riding and companionship for a set period of time. The specific terms may vary, but typically involve the lessee paying a portion of the horse's monthly board expenses in exchange spending time with the horse. Leasing is a great way to relieve financial strain without giving up your horse.
Donate your horse. There are hundreds of organizations across the country that accept donated horses for use in various programs—including therapeutic riding centers, police department mounted units, university riding programs or similar programs. If you decide to explore this option, use the same careful consideration you would in choosing any home for your horse. Also, be sure to find out what policies they have in place for horses that are retired or, for whatever reason, don't work out.
Relinquish your horse a rescue or sanctuary. There are hundreds of horse rescue and sanctuary organizations across the United States. Rescue groups take in horses with the intention adopting them out to new homes, while sanctuaries provide a lifetime of care. Make sure that any rescue or sanctuary you bring your equine to has a reputation for humane conditions and successful adoptions.
Do not give up! Finding an ideal home for your horse may take considerable time and effort, but your equine's future is in your hands. Be sure to screen potential adopters or organizations carefully; ask them for references; inquire financial stability, and previous horse ownership. Ask to visit their stables before you place your animal to ensure that the environment is suitable, and be sure to follow up with calls and visits. Also, be sure to stipulate in writing that if a sale or adoption does not work out, the horse will be returned to you.
For more information, visit the ASPCA Equine Campaign.