Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Animal Welfare Institute Establishes Abandoned Horse Reward Fund.

Washington, DC (January 29, 2009) – The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) announced today the establishment of the “Animal Welfare Institute Abandoned Horse Reward Fund.” Under the program, individuals providing information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone who abandons a horse in violation of state law will be rewarded with up to $1,000 by AWI. “We’ve heard time and time again from those defending horse slaughter that the fight to end this cruel practice has led to an increase in abandoned horses. The truth is that the number of American horses going to slaughter now is the same or higher as before the domestic plants closed under state law. In fact, killer buyers seem to be buying more horses than when the plants were open,” said Chris Heyde, AWI’s Deputy Director of Government and Legal Affairs.
Under the program, individuals with evidence should first contact their local police department, provide as many details as possible about the horse abandonment situation and let the department know about the Animal Welfare Institute Abandoned Horse Reward Fund. In such cases, eligibility for rewards and specific reward amounts will be determined by AWI. For complete terms and conditions of this reward fund, please go to www.awionline.org.

“If horses are being neglected or abandoned and the law is being violated, individuals need to be held accountable. Caring for a horse or any animal is a lifelong responsibility and not something you toss aside when inconvenient. We hope our reward fund will assist in bringing criminals to justice,” said Chris Heyde.

The Animal Welfare Institute has been at the forefront of efforts to pass a federal law to end horse slaughter. While the few remaining horse slaughter plants operating in the US were shut down in 2007 under state law, the absence of a federal law means that American horses are still at risk of being slaughtered for human consumption, and more than 100,000 horses were exported to Mexico and Canada in 2008 for that purpose. In Canada, horses are often shot to death while in Mexico some plants still use the “puntilla” knife to stab the horse into a state of paralysis prior to being slaughtered while still fully conscious. The meat is then sold to high-end consumers in Europe and Asia. Congress is currently considering the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act (H.R. 503), which will protect American horses from this brutal trade.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Seattle Times Article - Runaway Costs of Horse Rescue

Marc Ramirez of the Seattle Times interviewed Katie of Second Chance Ranch, as well as other key rescues in Washington. Here's a link to the article...

By Marc Ramirez
Seattle Times staff reporter

About a year and a half ago, Katie Merwick noticed the phone starting to ring a lot more at Second Chance Ranch, the horse-rescue outfit she runs in Elma, Grays Harbor County, 30 miles west of Olympia.

I don't want my horse anymore, callers would say. I can't afford it. Can you take it? What do I do?

"People are panicking because of the economy," Merwick says. "They're losing their jobs, and their homes. Boarding prices have skyrocketed, prices of hay and gas have gone up — I have 10 times the number of horses needing homes."

Now, instead of several calls a week, she says, she gets 40. Her 33 stalls are full and when she can't find other shelter space, she's offered to buy hay for owners who say they can no longer afford their horses. "People are panicking, and they need to ride this through."
For her and others in the industry, the effects of the recession are exacerbating a situation prompted by a mix of other factors, including overbreeding, the rising cost of horse care and, some say, the closing of U.S. horse slaughterhouses.

Tom Lenz, chairman of the Unwanted Horse Coalition (UHC), a program of the Washington, D.C.-based American Horse Council, says those who see horses as luxury items are questioning whether they really need them.

Meanwhile, more committed owners are having to give up their horses because of growing expense and debt.

It's a sensitive issue, partly because of the difficulty of measuring its magnitude and the emotions provoked by slaughterhouses. Some deny a problem with unwanted horses exists at all.

"It's hard to define what an unwanted horse is," says equine-protection specialist Stacy Segal of the U.S. Humane Society. "A horse that's unwanted to one person could be absolutely wanted to another. Every horse out there could potentially find a home if the owner's willing to take the time."

With e-mails and phone calls on the rise, the UHC is trying to put some measure to the problem. So far, a survey distributed to horse-industry members across the country — owners, vets, farriers and so on — has drawn about 25,000 responses. The coalition expects to release results by early March.

"I don't sit there and pass judgment," says LynnD Stiles of Duvall's Phoenix Rising Sanctuary. "Hey — you have to make a tough choice. It doesn't make you a bad person if you have to choose between feeding your kids and feeding your horses."

One ton of quality hay has gone from $150 to $350 in the last year or so, Stiles said.
Still, with fewer options now available to owners, "horses end up suffering until animal control has to do something about it, and (owners are) being charged with animal cruelty," says Gretchen Salstrom, who runs Arlington's People Helping Horses. "It's a vicious circle we're in."
All but three of the 46 horses she took in last year were animal-control seizures, she says. The year before, two were seizures. "I have the ability to help, but I can't go bankrupt doing it," she says. And with most horses needing six to nine months of rehabilitation, "the challenge isn't space. It's funding."

In Duvall, on her 60-acre grounds, Stiles raises rescued Thoroughbreds, polo ponies and even Nakota stallions — the wild Plains horse of Chief Sitting Bull — among her 55-horse operation.
Every year, she'd travel to Canadian ranches to outbid purveyors buying horses for meat. Last fall, she'd planned to do the same, but decided to stay put when evidence of the economic crisis was hitting home.

"The writing was on the wall," she says. "A crappy economy, hay prices through the roof ... I had a strong feeling that everyone who could help would be needed in our own backyard."
Others felt it, too. Before the recession, most of Salstrom's rescues in Arlington were from newbie owners who didn't realize what they'd gotten themselves into. "The factors are different now," she says.

She says she's seen a 35 percent drop in charitable donations, which limits how many horses she can take in. Currently, she has 18 — six of them in the last few months. Stronger animal-protection laws mean more seizures of neglected horses — but no funds to accompany their relocation to shelters.

The UHC estimates basic care for a horse at $1,800 to $2,400 a year; some local owners say it's more like $2,400 to $3,600. Meanwhile, the cost of euthanizing and disposing of a horse can run $500 to $1,000 per animal, depending on the location.
Some frustrated rescue operators have instituted owner-surrender fees. "What happened to planning?" Salstrom says. "... You chose to breed a horse. It's your responsibility. You don't give up your kids just because you can't afford to keep them anymore."

The Humane Society urges people to find ways to hold on to horses they can't sell, give away or afford to euthanize, and it supports pending legislation prohibiting U.S. horses from being exported for slaughter.

More than 100,000 horses were slaughtered annually in the U.S. for human consumption, the organization says, before the last few processing plants were closed in 2007. Now, thousands of horses destined for slaughter are instead sent to plants in Mexico and Canada.
Amid pressure from animal-rights groups, horse slaughter virtually ended in the United States in 2007, as courts upheld state laws banning it in Texas and Illinois, home to the nation's last three horse slaughterhouses.

Lenz says that while more responsible breeding is called for, unwanted horses pose a reality that must be addressed. "A horse is always going to get old or be lame or not be pretty or athletic enough," he says. "As a country, we're going to have to come to grips with what to do with them."

Locally, some express frustration over a lack of organized leadership to address the situation. Rescue operators urge those who want to help to research individual operations, as their programs vary; some, for instance, also rescue dogs and cats or offer equestrian programs for youth, and so on.

Salstrom says one recent caller told her she had 50 people ready to donate but uncertain where to direct their money. "At some point we have to band together and make it happen," she says.
Marc Ramirez: 206-464-8102 or mramirez@seattletimes.com


Monday, January 12, 2009

Flood Relief Fund - flakesale.com

Second Chance Ranch and HorseReunions.com have teamed up in a cooperative effort to establis a flood-relief fund to assist Washington state horse owners affected by the January 7, 2009 floods. At http://www.flakesale.com/ - you can click on a donate button and purchase a flake of hay for $5.00. This will feed one horse for one day.

On January 7, 2008, Western Washington experienced torrential rains resulting in devastating flooding in many areas. Over 18 counties declared a state of emergency, as a combination of heavy rain and previous snowfall caused a number of rivers to break their banks. 40,000 residents had to evacuate their homes, many with their pets and livestock. Over 300 horses were forced to take shelter at area fairgrounds.

As the waters recede, residents are returning to find that their winter’s supply of hay and grain has been destroyed by the rushing water. With hay prices at an all time high, the flood damage has created a severe crisis for area horse owners.

In establishing a flood relief fund, Second Chance Ranch is partnering with HorseReunions.com, a website created to help reunite owners and horses, and will provide emergency feeding grants to ensure that Washington horse owners can meet their horses’ immediate needs as they begin flood recovery efforts.

To fund this effort, Second Chance Ranch is holding a virtual “Flake Sale” and has established a website, flakesale.com, to allow donors to buy virtual flakes of hay for Washington horses in need through secure, online donations. A virtual flake costs just $5 and will purchase for enough hay to feed one horse for one day. Second Chance Ranch is also welcoming direct donations from area hay suppliers, feed stores and other equine industry professionals.

Washington state horse owners who have suffered hardship as a result of the January 2009 floods are encouraged to visit the flakesale.com site and download a grant application. The site also provides practical information on preparing horse properties for the return of livestock after a flood.

See www.flakesale.com for more information related to this response.


Friday, December 19, 2008

More on Slaughter...

Some want to bring it back - make it legal again. Really?

“I saw horses that were dead in trailers, with their legs ripped off, with their faces smashed in, eyeballs dangling, and these horses, some of them were still alive. They were just standing there,” said Caramante. Read the full story - my good friend Steve Long was interviewed with a horse he adopted from Second Chance Ranch.

And that is just the transportation. It is not an isolated incident - it is the sick truth about 50,000 - 100,000 horses per year. Does the magnitude of that number even register with you? The few people I have come across who are in favor of horse slaughter have been grossly misguided and have absolutely no clue what is involved in the transport or actual violent murder of these animals.

What about laws to protect horses from inhumane treatment? Exactly. WHAT happened to that? I will tell you - the laws that "could" protect a horse from violence and abuse are vaguely written and NOT enforced. You could call a sheriff from any county in the country and tell them a double-decker truck with injured horses is going down the freeway (both of which are illegal) and I can guarantee they wouldn't do anything about it.

For decades horse slaughter has been violent and cruel to the point that if you did something like that on your own property, you would not only be arrested, but probably admitted to a mental institution.

Bringing slaughter back is not the answer to anything. It won't help any situation that is going on. The point of extinguishing the practice of horse slaughter was to "evolve". Humanely euthanize domestic horses because they ARE pets and/or active in the work force of sports and other valuable positions (agriculture, police force, therapy are just a few examples).

It is absurd that we, as a society, have to discuss this and that there has to be a law forcing people to do the right thing. Tens of millions of dollars and tens of millions of people have worked for many years to accomplish the closure of horse slaughter. It's OVER. Get used to the idea that you will have to "humanely" euthanize domestic animals. Dogs, cats, and yes, horses, because soon it will be illegal to ship them out of the country for slaughter as well.

I dare ANY one who thinks we make slaughter illegal to watch the video on this news station. If after watching the truth about how the horses are transported, delivered, housed and then killed - if then, you still think it's an acceptable practice ... get some help!


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Slaughter - the progress, the plan.

In March of 2007 a federal district court ordered the U.S. Department of Agriculture to stop inspecting horsemeat at the Cavel International slaughter plant, effectively closing the last operating horse slaughtering facility in the United States. Those opposed to ending slaughter speculated that horses would run rampant in the streets and people would leave horses to starve in the fields, or set them loose to fend for themselves IF the option of taking their horse to slaughter was taken away. The truth is, no one in drove their horse to a slaughter house in Texas or Illinois to be killed in the first place. They took the horse to their local feed lot and that option has not changed or been taken from them. The only difference now is that the feed lots and auction houses are hauling the horses to Canada and Mexico to be slaughtered, rather than taking them to Illinois or Texas. This means traveling further to be killed, and suffering an even more unconscionable and violent death than ever before.

Race tracks across the country have taken a zero tolerance policy against horse slaughter! Suffolk Downs investor Richard Fields was largely responsible for taking the lead on this issue in 2007 by adopting a zero-tolerance policy toward those who slaughter horses. If a horse that ended its career at Suffolk Downs winds up being slaughtered, the trainer and owner would have its stalls at the track stripped away forever. Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito brought 7-year-old Commentator to Suffolk Downs for the Massachusetts Handicap in part because of the track's out-in-front stance against slaughtering horses. "It's a big issue in our industry," Zito told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "That's one of the reasons we like the people up there."

Magna Entertainment Corp. (MEC), North America's largest owner and operator of horse racetracks, announced on October 10, 2008 that it has formally adopted a company-wide policy promoting the humane treatment of racehorses. Ron Charles, MEC chief operating officer and president of California’s Santa Anita Park, tells Horse Channel.com, "MEC is extremely pleased to formally adopt a policy to further encourage the humane treatment of racehorses. We intend this to be one in a series of steps that will be taken in an effort to protect our equine athletes.”Frank Stronach, MEC chairman and chief executive officer, adds, “The goal of the policy is to forewarn industry participants who participate in the slaughter of racehorses that they are not welcome at any of our facilities across the country. I hope other racetrack owners formally adopt similar policies".

The effect of closing slaughter houses in the U.S. has raised awareness of an age old problem. The media has been quick to point out recent cases of people abandoning, neglecting and abusing horses – a more accurate report would reflect the fact that this has been an increasing problem for the past 25 years. It is only recently that the media has chosen to expose and exploit the problem. There are two kinds of people. Those who would starve or neglect their horses out of ignorance, regardless of what option are available, and those who would give them away or dispose of them humanely before letting that happen. There is a significant overpopulation of horses who need homes. There are not necessarily more horses per capita – but there are fewer homes for them. I can tell you with all certainty that the root of the population of “homeless horses” is due to our failing economy and diminishing agricultural communities. It has nothing to do with ending slaughter, because it hasn’t ended yet. People simply can’t afford the outrageously high feed and boarding prices.

Where will all of these horses go? Unfortunately, those who are forced to give their horse(s) away because they can’t afford to feed them are finding it difficult to find them homes. This is why our auction houses and feed lots have historically high numbers of horses being dumped there. Most people do not realize, or they are in denial, about the fact that horses who are not bid on at the local livestock auctions go to a slaughter house. Even fewer people are aware of the actual process of transportation and killing of the horse. The closure of U.S. slaughter houses, the number of horses killed has not decreased, but actually increased. Enumclaw Auction owner Ron Mariotti reported to KOMO 4 news that he is taking so many horses to slaughter that there is a waiting list now. They can’t even kill them fast enough. Thoroughbreds rank high on the list of breeds found at auction. Proponents of ending slaughter feared this would happen, as the ultimate goal of stopping horse slaughter all together will take layers of bills being passed. In the meantime, people like Mariotti are getting fat and rich off of killing people’s pets – without any conscience or regret.

The process of transport and slaughter for horses is barbaric and horrific. Our local auction/feedlot is filthy and has despicable conditions. It is not fit for goats or cattle, let alone a race horse. The care and treatment of animals that I have personally visited, went far beyond criminal abuse by legal standards. The slaughterhouses are worse. The journey to other countries for slaughter… torturous. You have to wonder how anyone could get up every morning and go off to work, making a living doing this. If any person on the street were caught even thinking about torturing and butchering an animal they way they do – they would be committed to an mental hospital. The treatment before and during their butchering far exceeds all legal standards – you would go to jail if you did this at home. Apparently, if you have a business license and are paid to do it, the law will turn their head.

In addition to the reputation slaughter houses have earned for horrendously cruel and inhumane methods of slaughter, the other opposition is the health factor for anyone who consumes the meat. Whether made into pet food, or a steak for humans, horse meat is contaminated with numerous medications and supplements that have clearly printed on the label “not to be used in animals for human consumption”. Just to mention a few…wormers, vaccines, bute, ulcer medications, lasix. Horses taken to feed lots are packed full of chemicals, and some have diseases such as cancer or metabolic conditions. Slaughter is not a rational, reasonable, or moral option for horses. It should not even be a consideration.

So what is the solution? What will happen to horses if we can’t ship them out of the country to be slaughtered? The point of removing the option of slaughter, is to force people to humanely euthanize horses who are truly homeless. The obvious and reasonable solution would be for “Humane Euthanasia Stations” to be set up in every state or at the auction houses where horses can be humanely euthanized by injection. I’m not against euthanasia because there truly are not enough homes for horses. They have to go somewhere. I am against unnecessarily violent, cruel, gruesome slaughter of innocent animals.

From the day horses are born, we tell them they must trust us. Follow us as leaders. Most are treated as domestic pets. They do their job as best they can. There is something very wrong and unjust about taking these beautiful, intelligent and loyal animals from their herd, their family and their home or job and dropping them off at a feed lot. I can only surmise that people who make this choice, have absolutely concept of the horrific suffering the horse endures in those last days or weeks before it is finally killed, for the gluttony of a steak.

There is a video on the Human Society of the United States (HSUS) website. It is hard to stomach, but I encourage anyone who is going to have an opinion on this subject to watch it and know exactly what it is that you’re talking about. And remember, if you think it’s unbearable to “watch” – 100,000 American horses LIVE it each year. https://community.hsus.org/campaign/FED_2008_horseslaughter4

HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) undercover investigators followed "killer buyers" transporting horses thousands of miles from auctions to feedlots to interstate highways, and documented the horrific cruelty and abuse of this transport. They also documented a barbaric method of slaughter on a kill floor in Juarez, Mexico. Thousands of horses are stabbed with short knives, a method that leaves them paralyzed and unable to breathe. The animals are still conscious as they are hoisted up by a chain on a rear leg and their throats are slit.

The HSUS praises the House Judiciary Committee for favorably passing legislation to ban the slaughter of American horses for human consumption overseas, as well as the export of American horses to other countries for slaughter. "H.R. 6598 will take American horses off the menu for good," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. "Horses are an American icon who deserve better than to be shipped hundreds of miles in unbearable conditions to slaughter plants in Mexico and Canada where they will be cruelly slaughtered for human consumption.

Please continue to gather information. Get involved for the horse’s sake. The HSUS is a good resource for updated information. http://www.hsus.org/ ;

Review Timeline:

July 2008 ­- Crime Subcommittee of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee holds thorough hearing on H.R. 6598.

Sept. 2007 - A three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit unanimously upholds the Illinois state law banning the slaughter of horses for human consumption in that state.

May 2007 ­- Gov. Rod Blagojevich signs H.B. 1711, banning horse slaughter in Illinois.

May 2007 ­- The U.S. Supreme Court announces that it denies an appeal of the lower court decision upholding Texas' ban on the sale of horsemeat for human consumption.April 2007 ­ U.S. House of Representatives passes H.R. 249 to restore a decades-old ban on the commercial sale and slaughter of wild horses first enacted under the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. House vote: 277-137

April 2007 -­ U.S. Senate Commerce Committee votes 15-7 to approve S. 311 to ban horse slaughter and exports of horses for slaughter.

March 2007 - A federal district court orders the U.S. Department of Agriculture to stop inspecting horsemeat at the Cavel International slaughter plant, effectively closing the last operating horse slaughtering facility in the United States.

March 2007 ­- The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirms decision upholding a Texas state law banning the sale of horsemeat for human consumption.Sept. 2006 ­ U.S. House of Representatives passes H.R. 503, the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act. The 109th Congress adjourns before the Senate can consider the bill. House vote: 263-146Sept. 2005 ­ U.S. Senate approves the Ensign-Byrd Amendment to the FY 2006 Agriculture Appropriations Bill to prohibit the use of tax dollars to pay for inspections of horsemeat. Senate vote: 69-28. Ban that is incorporated into final appropriations bill is subsequently circumvented by USDA, which arranges for horse slaughter industry to pay for inspections.

June 2005 - ­ U.S. House of Representatives approves the Sweeney-Spratt-Rahall-Whitfield Amendment to the FY 2006 Agriculture Appropriations Bill to prohibit the use of tax dollars to pay for inspections of horsemeat. House vote: 269-158

May 2005 - ­ U.S. House of Representatives approves the Rahall-Whitfield Amendment to the FY 2006 Interior Appropriations Bill to restore federal protections to wild horses and burros from commercial sale and slaughter. House vote: 249-159. The provision is stripped in conference from the final bill.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Do racehorses love their job?

This one does! Topaz Legacy (#7) dumped his rider at the gate and continued to run the entire race using strategy and tactic. He holds back, watches for a hole, accelerates to the next hole, slows down, weaves in and out – blasts to the finish line to WIN. He timed the entire race perfectly. Watch #7 come out of the gate - then keep your eye on the right side of the screen. Any wagers that he will claimed on next race?