Thursday, September 10, 2009

Horse Rescues 101 - Wordy but worth it.

Most people think that horse rescues are noble, big-hearted people who have dedicated their lives to help horses . Well, sadly that is not always the case and considering the recent stories on the news as well as the countless email groups, blogs and internet forums dedicated to reporting about the fraudulent or neglectful horse rescues . I would have to say finding a good rescue is not as easy as you would think. In fact although the original plan was to start a horse rescue , we at BITS decided not to jump so quickly on the rescue bandwagon but to work pro-actively rather than retroactively to horse neglect.

We will take in horses that cannot be quickly re-homed and those horses will be accepted into the BITS 4R program ( Rehabilitation,Re-conditioning, Re-training and Re-homing.) However we will not be bringing horses into this program until we have the adequate vet and training funds to assure the program is successful, and does not rely day to day off of donated money . Our standards are non-negotiable when it comes to horses. While we applaud the rescues who do take great care of the horses entrusted to them , it is far too common for rescues to cut corners for various reasons at the facility while posting happy stories on the internet.

Our focus at BITS will mainly be on taking a new approach to helping horses and horse owners. While not as emotionally stirring as pictures and stories of starved horses , we do feel that our programs will help prevent the neglect for many horses for a longer period of time. Simply put we feel that EDUCATION for horse and horse owners is the long-term approach to the unwanted or neglected horse problems .

Rather than dwell on all the endless reports or even our many personal experiences about fraudulent horse rescues or horses being neglected , starved , suffering and worse in the hands of horse rescues , lets talk about what makes a good horse rescue.

Any rescue should be following or exceeding the guidelines for horse rescues written by the American Association of Equine Practitioners. Here is a link to the document it is a fantastic resource for any horse owner and a must read for anyone in rescue. The guidelines have a checklist of things to help any donor or visitor evaluate a rescue as well. While animal rescues may be operated in a perfectly ethical and legal manner, many are not and usually the person who has sent their horse to the rescue does not realize it until it is too late.The BITS staff actually feel that these guidelines should be strict policies and rules of all rescues and hope someday they will. AAEP Rescue and Retirement Guidelines

The following BOLDED paragraphs are excerpts from the AAEP guidelines . The first section listed seems to sum it up very well .

Ultimately, the best indicators of proper management of an equine rescue/
retirement facility are the physical and emotional health of the horses and the overall improvement in horses previously suffering from disease, trauma or neglect. Unless
there is a medical explanation, all horses should regain and maintain an acceptable state of health and well-being with proper care.
Allowing rescued horses to deteriorate due to inadequate care, resources or space
is no favor to them and can progress to the point of cruelty. Those who take in very
animal, regardless of their ability to provide care or refusal to recognize when an
animal is suffering, are hoarders, not rescuers. All rescue and retirement organizations should periodically reevaluate their principles, practices, capabilities and goals with the help of objective, knowledgeable outsiders, such as their equine veterinarian.

**Tax exemption status 501 c3 has nothing to do with the type of care provided. The IRS does not evaluate horse rescues. In fact there is no regulation of horse rescues other than the local Animal Control who often have no experience or training with horses.
**We highly recommend that anyone donating to a horse rescue facility or surrendering a horse to a horse rescue visit in person and really check things out.

Here is a list of questions to ask and things to look for when visiting the facility or even just checking the website out. All photos below were taken at rescue facilities that have been cited or shut down. Please understand that BITS does not believe that all rescues operate this way, we are just interested in educating supporters that this has, does and will continue to happen until there are monitored guidelines for rescues.

1.Ask how long a horse has been there? When looking at horses a lot will depend on the horse's condition when it came in and underlying medical conditions but if the horse has been there for more than a few months , has lost weight or condition or still looks like a severely neglected horse, in most cases it's because -IT IS. Horses can suffer from neglect at rescues.

2. Clean and full water troughs. No algae , feces or empty water containers.

3.Is there enough and adequate shelter from sun and bad weather as well as stalls for horses that need to be contained while injured or ill?

4. Is it overcrowded for the size of the facility? Horses are not dogs or cats and need room to move around. Horses are susceptible to parasites, overcrowded conditions , uncleaned pens and animals that graze or eat from the ground is a recipe for a parasite infestation. Horses will fight , particularly over food and water when overcrowded serious or even deadly injuries can result.
As the AAEP states;hoarding is not rescue.

5. What is their quarantine program like? Would you believe there are rescues who do no quarantine at all ? Horses who are new or ill should be kept in quarantine and the quarantine area must be separate from other horses. Adopters should be very careful that they do not take a horse that has not been properly quarantined and expose other horses to diseases.

6. Are older, or weaker horses kept with younger or healthy ones? Weaker horses will not get their fair share of food in a herd situation.

7. What is their worming program , farrier schedule , shots, feeding schedule including types of feed ? These are real basic needs if there is no documentation on when the horse had shots wormer or it's teeth or hooves done- you can probably bet that it's because it has not been done. Always get an outside vet check on any horse from rescue or private party.

8. Do they provide more than just food, water and shelter? Are the horses groomed? Do they know the horse's personality or training? Every horse should be evaluated thoroughly if it is up for adoption. No excuses.

9.Who is running the horse rescue? Are they knowledgeable horse people? Do they have a Board of Directors and staff that are knowledgeable horse people? Some common factors among rescues that have gone bad are ; operators who rely on the rescue for their income, absent or unknowledgable about horses Board of Director members, relying on volunteers and no real staff taking in far too many horses than the on site people could possibly care for properly.

10.Is the rescue truly evaluating the potential adopter and where the horse will go and are they following up with the horses they have adopted out?

11. Is the rescue ran with a standard of ethics? Many times rescues will charge an owner of a surrendered horse a fee to “take it off their hands” and then turn around and charge the adopting family a fee. The rescue may even take the animal from the adopting family after a certain period of time, but never refund the money to the adopting family, again finding a new adopting family and take another sum of cash from them.

Again we cannot stress enough how important it is that you know exactly what type of rescue you support and the only way to know for sure is to visit the facility yourself , ask questions and be aware that calling themselves a rescue does not make them a true rescue. Just because the word “rescue” or “humane” appears in the name of the organization does not mean that they will follow through in taking care of the animal.

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