We have all heard about the foreclosure problems facing many in this country. People are being forced from their homes and some are leaving their dogs, cats and other pets behind because they simply have no place to take them. Just abandoning any pet is irresponsible and nobody should just accept the abandonment of animals. Responsible owners of any pet will make sure that their pets are placed somewhere when they hit difficulties and not resort to illegal acts such as abandonment or neglect.
To justify such illegal acts as people making hard choices is unacceptable. People often are faced with hard choices, but as a civilized society we hold our citizens responsible for their actions and their choices. Circumstances may mitigate the punishment, as they should, but we are a society of laws and we cannot allow people to blatantly violate laws or society will crumble. Ignoring any law creates a slippery slope that our society simply cannot/should not allow. The courts are designed to take all mitigating circumstances into consideration when they hand out punishment, so no laws should ever be ignored out of sympathy.
We can also look at the economy to blame for the number of owner surrenders that have nothing to do with people losing their homes. If some haven’t noticed there was a drought in a large part of the south in 2007 and in other parts they had unusually high rain amounts. This drove up the cost of grain and hay. Am I the only one who noticed that EVERYTHING went up in price? Bread costs more, milk certainly costs more and gas is outrageous. It costs more to feed my children and it costs more to feed my horses. It is my responsibility to dig deeper to feed them all. So, we have modified our normal vacation plans and dipped into our savings, but my kids, horses and other pets are fed and well cared for. If anyone simply cannot afford to care for their horses, dogs or children, they should seek help and put them where they CAN get the care they need. That was the responsibility everyone assumed when they had children and when they got horses and dogs and…
However, not everyone selling a horse is in drastic need for funds and facing financial hardship. It is VERY seldom that horses stay from birth until death with the same owner. Horses are sold for a variety of reasons. If they weren’t most owners wouldn’t be owners because there simply wouldn't be any horses for sale for us to buy! So, just because so many horses are for sale doesn't mean the economy is so terrible. Normally there are a large number of horses for sale during the winter and fewer during the spring and summer months. Some people decide during the winter they just don't want to feed a horse during the winter when they ride less, or because their kids went off to college in the fall and it becomes apparent that they won't be coming home EVERY weekend to ride, or because they are new to owning horses and had no idea that the horses can't just been turned out to graze all year long. That happens every winter, not just this winter. Anyone who has been in the horse industry for any length of time knows this and they take this into consideration when deciding to market any horse. Most refrain from marketing horses during the winter and wait until spring to sell if they can.
This leads me to those who use auctions as a way to sell horses. People who take horses to auction are looking for a quick buck, they just don’t want to take the time to properly market the horse and find it a new home. This is the same mentality of the folks who give away puppies in the Wal-Mart parking, they just don’t care. And they don't care (or turn a blind eye to the fact) that a large number of those puppies find their way to the local pounds. I have even seen someone selling their horse in the Wal-Mart parking lot! Sure, it takes longer to properly market and make sure your horse has a decent home, but in the end your profit is much higher. Horses at auction are perceived to be of lower quality and buyers at auction pay accordingly. Of course there are a few notable exceptions to this like the private stock auctions. However, this isn’t the majority of the horse market, just as the horses going through auction aren’t the majority of the horse market either. Horses at an auction near where I live are going for $50 to $600. However a quick check of the paper shows the average price for a horse in my area to be from $700 to $1200. I called a few of the ads in the paper and many sold their horses in less than a week through the ads, so auction statistics don't reflect the equine economy and using it as the sole factor is more than just misleading.
Some are saying the fact that equine rescues are full and that shows that the economy is so bad that slaughter is needed to allow a method to "dispose" of the excess horses. There are a number of articles written that dispute this theory, read one here. In short, slaughter is a supply and demand industry. It is not the supply of horses that motivate it but the demand for the meat. So, a supposed surplus of horses isn't the reason that rescues are full. Many, if not just about every one, are full because they have taken in horses that were bound for slaughter. Many rescues attend auctions and use their limited funds to buy horses that would otherwise go to slaughter. In the case of the AHDF, we accepted horses that another group purchased that were headed to slaughter or were literally at a feedlot waiting to go to Mexican slaughter plants. Another way rescues fill up is that breeders will contact rescues to place their old brood mares or other less desirable stock. Race horse owners/trainers call rescues to take their horses that have stopped winning. They are not facing financial ruin; they just want to sell their horses but either don’t want the horses to go to slaughter or think they are going to get a better deal from the “suckers”. Most rescues accept these animals because if they don't they know that these "sellers" will sell the horses to slaughter and they know that by not accepting them it might seem that they didn't care about the horses possibly going to slaughter. These money motivated people are manipulating these soft-hearted kind folks and taking top dollar for horses that they know they wouldn't get from any other buyer in the open market. Again, using this method to determine the equine market is misleading.
So, to recap. Yes, the economy is bad. Yes, people are having to dig deeper to care for their horses, but they are also digging deeper for EVERYTHING. The horse industry isn't the only one facing higher prices and less profit. Yes, some irresponsible people may be abandoning their horses, their dogs and/or their other pets, but they aren't doing it at record levels and they aren't just dumping their horses in the wild (see our blog entry called Horses Everywhere or are they?). Those that are illegally abandoning their horses or neglecting them should be prosecuted. The winter months are traditionally a time when horse prices dip and horses seem to be in surplus especially in years where some area has seen drought or other natural disasters (EVERY year sees some area in the country suffering drought, flood or wildfires). Yes, the credit crunch is affecting horse owners but it is affecting every aspect of the population in some way. And last but not least, yes the end is in sight. There is absolutely no need to turn to an inhumane and ineffective industry to "bail out" the equine industry because it simply doesn't need bailing out.