ASPCA “Relinquishers Welcome” Grant Is Changing the Fate of Equines
In September 2021, the owners of a yearling thoroughbred filly named Fortune Kitty ’21 (above, right) found themselves in a financial bind and at risk of losing their horse.
Around the same time, nearly 700 miles away, another family encountered difficulties searching for placement options for their 20-year-old American Quarter Horse named Bell (above, left).
Both Fortune Kitty ’21 and Bell needed new homes, but thanks to ASPCA "Relinquishers Welcome” grants, both horses are today in new pastures. These grants are part of a more extensive ASPCA grant program that provided $1 million in equine funding in 2021.
“These grants play crucial roles in improving welfare, providing safety nets and increasing adoption,” says Dr. Emily Weiss, Vice President of Equine Welfare for the ASPCA. “More horse owners now have safe and understanding places to go when they can no longer keep their equines.”
“Horses often have multiple homes throughout their lifetimes and can be at their most vulnerable during times of transition,” adds Dr. Weiss. “When a dog or cat needs to be rehomed, shelters can help owners unable to rehome the pet themselves. There are few options that provide the same assistance for equines, so these grants aim to grow the support available for equines and their owners.”
Transitioning Equines Safely and Efficiently
The Animal Rescue League of Iowa (ALR), which took in Bell, and the Kentucky Humane Society (KHS), which took in Fortune Kitty ’21, each received “Relinquishers Welcome” Grants.
The funding supports the ARL’s “Equine Managed Admissions” program, which covers veterinary expenses at ARL’s Second Chance Ranch. The funds also provide equine health assessment and hands-on investigative training for law enforcement.
“With the ASPCA’s help, we were able to take in and adopt out more horses in 2021, making it a historic year,” says Matthew Levien, ARL’s Director of Shelter Operations. “The funding has also helped us test new ideas to expand our equine program.”
Kentucky Humane Society’s “Horses Welcome” program, also supported by the ASPCA grant, provides critical help with one of KHS’s biggest needs: equine training.
“Waiting for training or being in the training process is by far the most significant barrier we see in getting horses into homes,” says Lori Redmon, President and CEO of KHS. “Most horses that come to us need training. That can range from starting from the ground up, providing a tune-up for an already saddle-trained horse, refreshing ground manners or working with feral horses who have much more to overcome than your average horse. With funds dedicated to training horses for their next career, we can not only place more horses but also welcome more into our program.”
Bell was one of 17 horses taken in by the ARL with help from the “Relinquishers Welcome” grant.
"Bell's family was moving, so they contacted us," says Carrie Spain, Second Chance Ranch Coordinator at the ARL.
The ARL took in Bell on November 27. They brought her up to date on her vaccinations, worming, hoof care and teeth floating.
"She had been ridden in the past, but it had been a long time," Carrie says. "We felt she would be a great companion horse and could still be lightly ridden."
In December, Carrie received a call from Hallie R., who wanted to adopt a companion for the family’s mare, Sissy. Carrie told Hallie about Bell, and the family made an initial visit, then returned twice more with their seven-year-old twin boys. They adopted Bell on December 31.
"They felt Bell would be a nice companion for her mare, and she was good with the boys,” Carrie says. “Today, Bell and Sissy are best friends, and Bell fits in well with the entire family.”
Fortune Kitty ’21’s Story
Fortune Kitty '21 was relinquished to KHS with three other mares on September 30. Olivia Dixon, KHS’s Equine Manager, recalls loading all four into a stock trailer.
"Their board hadn't been paid, and a livestock hauler was going to take them away," says Olivia. “The horse owner was desperate as she was unable to pay board, and the stable was unable to handle the care and finances of the additional horses. Fortunately, the stable owner contacted us.”
Olivia transported Fortune Kitty ’21 along with her mother, Fortune Kitty, an ex-racehorse, and the two others to KHS’s Willow Hope Farm.
After the horses’ photos were posted on KHS’s Facebook page, Emma G., an English riding instructor and lesson barn manager, took notice. Emma wanted a young horse she could train and eventually replace her beloved riding horse when that mare retires to become a pasture companion.
“I had been following KHS for a while and knew I eventually wanted to adopt a horse from them,” says Emma, who has had horses since childhood.
Emma adopted Fortune Kitty ’21 on October 23 and changed her name to Willow.
“I keep her with my older mare, and she doesn’t show any major signs of separation anxiety when they are apart,” Emma says. “She’s a loving filly—always interested in what I’m doing and never fusses when trying new things. Even when I’m not working, she follows me around the barn, begging for scratches. Now that I have her, I still think about how lucky I was to find such a special filly.”
More Horses to Help
“We’re thrilled to see how these organizations are identifying sustainable ways to support horses before they fall into harm's way,” says Dr. Weiss.
“Horses can languish when their owners can’t find safe havens for their horses to go,” says Lori. “With this funding, we can help more horse owners in need, and then safely transition more horses into new homes."