Sunday, March 2, 2008

Horses EVERYWHERE, or are they?

If you have read many of the recent rumors all over the internet you may think that if you want a horse you don't need to pay cash for it, just head to certain areas and you can pick one up for free. A while back we were all told about the repercussions of the close of the slaughter plants, horses were overrunning Kentucky. The media even jumped on this bandwagon and without checking their sources published a number of articles about these poor abandoned animals.

The problem is that the horses the article referred to were all owned and not a single one was abandoned. The horses were all grazing on land that had been reclaimed from mining. The grass was about waist high, something no horse owner could resist, especially since they didn't pay for the grazing. The whole issue arose from an article about some teenagers shooting at some horses that they thought were strays. Of course, the author of the articles didn't delve any deeper into the issue than the fact that the boys had claimed the horses were strays. He failed to read the follow-up articles that mentioned the owners and the fact that the horses injured received immediate attention and the owner removed the horses from the property.

After the erroneous articles were published the state of Kentucky moved to correct the Misinformation. The Governor issued a written statement saying the state of Kentucky was in fact not overrun with abandoned horses and many local articles were written trying to correct the misinformation, but the facts never received the attention the sensational article got and the furor eventually died down. That is unless you count the fact that the articles were and still are used to oppose HR 503 and S 311, the Horse Slaughter Prevention Act. Obviously the truth is something that some groups feel that Congress is not entitled to.

Fast forward to a week ago.

A rumor is being spread that 250-300 horses have been abandoned in "northern" Wisconsin. The email added that people who can't care for their horses should make sure that their horses go to a rescue and not be abandoned. It also accompanied an alert about thieves stealing hay because it is just so expensive and honest people are turning criminals to feed their starving horses. They attempted to look like they legitimately cared about these poor animals, when what they are really trying to do is say that the slaughter houses should be reopened. Since we have all been through this before with Kentucky, we all knew that this rumor was false. However, Mary Jones, a long time AHDF supporter/member and staffer, did some checking. After hours of research and calling just about everyone within the state from local officials, to state parks officials to federal parks officials in Wisconsin she was able to determine that the rumor was false. The only loose horses any of them had ever heard of were in good weather when people were riding and the horses got away from them. They assured her that if there were actually that many horses out there they would have detected them by now.

I want to make it clear that Mary checked the WHOLE state of Wisconsin, not just the "northern" part where the rumor said they were located. Mary took a great deal of her valuable time to verify this rumor, something she shouldn't have had to do but did so we could all speak to the rumor with authority. Unfortunately, I don't think the rumors will end here. Just put any state in the blank and we will soon see rumors fly about that state.

If anyone has any doubts about what AHDF says or anyone who speaks on the issue of slaughter says, check it out. At the end of this article I will post the names and agencies that Mary called and spoke with. You can make the same calls and get the same results. Those who speak on the anti-slaughter side will usually provide you with links to where you can see where we get our info so you can verify it yourself. Those speaking on the pro-slaughter side aren't as forthcoming because they use theory, conjecture, fear and lies to support their position.

Why am I writing about these stupid rumors? Because often well-meaning people will pass along this information hoping that someone will do something to "help" the horses. However, this just spreads the rumors and gives them more power. Whenever you read a rumor about things like this do some research first and if you can't, don't post it all over the internet, send it to a group you can trust to check out. If there is any truth to it they will do whatever they can to help the animals and if the public needs to get involved they will send out a press release or an alert to their members. Let's all not get caught up in the lies and innuendos and just deal in facts, it will help us all work more effectively to help the horses we all love.

Darryl, the manager of Willow Park
Kate, WI State Parks Department
Karen, Dept of Ag's National Parks Service
Anne, Department of the Interior's National Forest Service office in Milwaukee
Phil, Recreation and Land Department of the National Forest Service

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