Our Multifaceted Work for Horses

Because the ASPCA is dedicated to ensuring good welfare for all equines, we’re building innovative programs and systems to provide them with a unique, comprehensive network of support. Our efforts to protect equines focus on four main areas: Keeping horses safe, normalizing equine adoption, fighting cruelty via advocacy and policy work, and responding to crises/emergencies.

Keeping Horses Safe

Woman petting horse

When a dog or cat guardian needs to relinquish their pet, there are many safe places to do so. The ASPCA has been hard at work creating similar options for horses; we want to ensure that there are high-quality, accessible rehoming and safety net programs available to horse owners who need them. Without an option for safe surrender to a shelter or rescue, horse owners could be left with few alternatives, and the horse’s welfare may suffer as a result. Our equine safety net programs are designed to keep horses and their owners together when that is what’s appropriate; give a safe place to rehome when that is what is needed; and to provide compassionate, humane end-of-life options when necessary.

In July 2018 we launched the ASPCA Regional Support Center pilot near Dallas, Texas. The program offered assistance for owned equines in the surrounding area, such as rehoming opportunities for horses, mules and donkeys, and basic veterinary care to help horse owners in need of support. During its operation, the program helped nearly 60 equines and allowed us to collect valuable data on how to best support vulnerable horses and their owners.

In August 2019 we launched a second ASPCA Regional Support Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Through this work, the ASPCA has helped over 250 horses and we have been able to share what we have learned with the animal welfare community across the country. Several Partners of our equine adoption initiative, The Right Horse, have used those findings to open their own iteration of the Regional Support Center in North Texas.

To further increase the likelihood that horses can remain in their homes, the ASPCA, in partnership with the American Association of Equine Practitioners, is collaborating with local veterinarians on The Vet Direct Safety Net pilot program, in which veterinarians identify and provide subsidized services to horse owners in their communities who are experiencing hardship. Vet Direct Safety Net participating veterinarians are able to provide up to $600 worth of free veterinary services per animal to assist horse owners in need of emergency procedures or compassionate euthanasia.

In addition, we have funded the development of the American Horse Council’s microchip look-up tool, which provides reliable means to identify microchipped horses and assist them through safety net programs, recover horses from theft, and monitor their welfare. Microchips can also help to reunite lost horses with their owners in the aftermath of disasters.

Helping Horses Find Homes

Woman riding horse

When keeping the horse at home is not an option, safe rehoming options become essential to improving equine welfare. You likely have adopted, or know someone who has adopted, a dog or cat. Chances are you don’t know anyone who has adopted a horse—and there’s an explanation for that. Traditionally, there hasn’t been a large focus on expanding equine rehoming or a focus on building public interest in adopting a horse. Through our adoption-focused program called The Right Horse Initiative, the ASPCA seeks to change that. With the goal of massively increasing horse adoption in the United States, The Right Horse Initiative unites equine industry and welfare professionals and organizations to increase the number of horses helped through adoption, improve rehoming best practices and shine a national spotlight on equine adoption.

The ASPCA’s Right Horse Initiative builds bridges between the equine welfare and industry  communities. The Right Horse Initiative works with a network of partner rescues around the country to engage adopters and build programs that increase adoptions. Adoption groups who go through the process of becoming a Right Horse Partner have reported a more than 100% average increase in their adoptions within the first year of partnership.

Simultaneous to our work with the equine welfare community, The Right Horse Initiative engages the public to bring awareness and interest to horse adoption. An ASPCA study estimated 1.2 million households—or approximately 2.3 million adults—in the U.S. have both the resources and desire to adopt an at-risk equine. We connect homeless horses with these potential adopters through our online adoption portal, My Right Horse.

Recognizing that the distance between adoptable horses and potential adopters can be a significant barrier to making good matches, we launched the ASPCA Horse Adoption Express in 2021. The Horse Adoption Express moves horses between Right Horse Partner organizations and to trainers to prepare them for and connect them to adoptive homes.

Strengthening Legal Protections

Man with brown horse

Ensuring equines are protected under the law is key to advancing their welfare and preventing cruelty. Right now, our efforts are focused in three key areas: Protecting wild horses and burros, ending horse slaughter, and preventing a cruel practice called soring.

Wild horses and burros, living symbols of the American West who helped shape our nation’s heritage, have enjoyed special legal protections since the passage of the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. Unfortunately, the federal agency responsible for wild horse management has consistently blundered this duty. With wild horse populations rapidly reproducing, and the threat of government culls and climate change looming, the ASPCA has stepped forward with a compassionate plan to protect and humanely manage these special herds. Through fertility control, strategic gathering, rehoming of gathered horses and a focus on adoption, America’s wild horses and burros can continue to thrive on our public lands for generations to come.

American horses have not been slaughtered for human consumption in the U.S. since 2007—due to overwhelming public opposition and a federal restriction on funding it. However, a loophole in the law allows tens of thousands of our nation’s beloved equines to be transported across U.S. borders each year to be slaughtered. Fortunately, that may come to an end.

The U.S. House will vote very soon on the INVEST in America Act, a sweeping surface transportation bill that invests billions of dollars in our nation’s roads, bridges, railways and ports. The bill’s passage could also mean that our nation’s equines will finally be safe—if a critical amendment is included. Please visit the ASPCA Advocacy Center to learn more about the Carter-Fitzpatrick Horse Slaughter Amendment and contact your U.S. representative today to urge them to protect America's equines!

Soring—the practice of using chains or chemical burns to injure a horse’s hooves and legs to elicit an exaggerated gait in the show ring—is pervasive in the breed-specific Tennessee Walking Horse Industry. Ending this abuse is essential, which is why the ASPCA supports passage of the federal Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act. This bill passed in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2019 but did not pass in the Senate that session. We are awaiting its reintroduction in 2021.

Combating Cruelty and Responding to Crises

Man petting brown horse

The ASPCA has always been at the forefront of disaster response and cruelty intervention. Our National Field Response team has helped tens of thousands of animals, including horses and other equines, displaced by hurricanes, wildfires, mudslides and other disasters.

The ASPCA also deploys at the request of federal, state and local authorities to assist in animal cruelty cases. We help with investigations, forensic evidence collection, rescuing animals and transporting them to safety, providing sheltering and care for the animals, and providing legal services to bring those responsible to justice.