Friday, March 13, 2009

When Good Intentions Go Bad Part 2

A while back I posted a blog about good intentions that went bad. Mostly it affected a pending bill in Illinois that originally would have banned double decker trailers in the transport of horses. That bill had supporters, including the AHDF, until the Farm Bureau got involved and added amendments that would have basically gutted the bill. While the sponsor agreed to the amendments and then stripped them from the bill when it was pointed out what they did, the whole thing blew apart and the bill never did pass.

This time I am talking, not about a bill, but a few recent events that have been blowing around in private and not so private emails. All involve the lives of horses and a bunch of well intentioned folks who have lost their way for whatever reasons. I am not going to name the players as in the end it doesn't matter because horses are now at risk because of those actions and that is ultimately the real shame. If you recognize yourself or your group, don't automatically assume that I have taken sides, I haven't. As I see it in every case I am mentioning both parties failed in some way or another and all need to take responsibility for their actions. I am not condeming anyone, I KNOW without a doubt that everyone started with the best of intentions, but we all need to learn lessons here to make sure it never happens again.

In the first one a group that doesn't take in horses funded a rescue effort and placed them with another group. Sounds like everything should have gone well right? Wrong! Everyone had the idea that they would look like heroes and they all failed to do their homework ahead of time and the horses are at this minute in danger.

The first group secured funding to rescue a fairly large number of horses. They then began looking for placement for them. They were working against a time line to get the horses moved, so instead of doing enough research they decided to place them all with a group that said they could handle the animals. (It would also save on transportation costs to send them all to the same place rather than sending them to multiple locations.) They took the rescue's word for it and shipped the horses and even sent some money to provide for their care ahead of time. They failed to hear the warning signs of "I have to have some fence repairs done before the horses get here" or "I need to get more hay" which turned out to mean that the rescue was in over their heads financially and couldn't afford to care for the horses. The org wanted to save the horses and look as though they were active in the efforts, so they sent the horses anyway. After the fact it has come to light that the rescue not only wasn't in a position to care for the horses but had made some bad financial moves in the past and is now threatening to abandon the horses. As if that isn't bad enough the rescue has made demands of the organization to not only pay for feed, but for boarding the horses too. The rescue wanted to help, but when they learned that the organization had the ability to get funding they tried to milk them dry. Now both the rescue and the organization involved are in a pitched email battle and in the end there won't be any winner, and the horses will lose. Other people and organizations have lined up to take sides, without considering that BOTH made mistakes and BOTH should accept responsibility for those horses. Shame on them both.

Next is a case of a group that has begun euthanizing healthy horses that they "think" may not find homes. They have basically become a shelter with a very limited holding time. This isn't the worst part, they have now developed the mindset that they are the horse police and know what is best for the horses.

The group started out as a rescue. They took in a few horses here and there and even provided a bit of training to enhance their adoptability. As most rescues know it takes time to adopt due to screening and training. They had a bit of modest success and were filling a niche in a specific area. They decided to go bigger because of their success. They began working with a group to rescue horses from feedlots and while the majority of the horses never set foot on their property they were getting a reputation for helping. Their donations increased as did their visibility. Now they were getting donations to go to a local auction to buy horses in danger of going to a kill buyer. They began euthanizing horses that came from the auction who were very old or sick, preventing them from enduring the slaughter trip and having to suffer. At one auction they managed to buy EVERY horse. Now they were seen as THE ultimate rescue, they were doing great. Ooops, forgot to mention that when they bought every horse they bid against regular folks looking for a horse and many went for well above slaughter prices and that people who go to the auction to save horses say there is only one or maybe 2 kill buyers at the tiny auction. They began to reason that those folks bidding on stallions or mares were backyard breeders and now they were out to save them all from a life of breeding. Since they didn't have stallion facilities, those animals were held over night and instantly euthanized. They developed a program to "save" horses, which meant if they didn't find a home within so many days with no adoption fee those animals were instantly euthanized. They stopped training, but they were getting tons of donations. Since they only really cared for horses for a few days this benefitted them financially. Then they began holding "euthanasia days" where the public could bring horses to die and their bodies hauled off with their own dead. People on the groups they belonged to didn't see what was happening and when one questioned anything they were promptly removed from the group or were attacked by the rescue. They didn't seem to notice that the rescue had limited space, so only a few horses could actually be held by the rescue and that they were bringing in far too many animals for their limited facilities. Now the rescue regularly euthanizes on a certain every week. Horses not placed during the week before are killed for no other reason than they would have longer holding times. This includes foals as they take long to place. Only those horses that are not too old, are in good shape, are healthy and have impeccible training avoid the needle. The rescue is putting itself out there as a model to other rescues to follow and the pro-slaughter folks are certainly supporting it as it supports their position. They have gained a following, publicity and money. The rescue manager now is paid a salary, has their facility mortgage paid and has new vehicles to drive, including new trailers, but horses die every week that could have found new homes. Shame on them and their supporters.

I could go on and on with other examples. It is a crying shame what is being done. It is distracting from the work that needs to be done. Frankly I don't have time to follow the email exchanges, let alone follow up on people acting badly. It is hard enough to fight the other side without having to fight the idiots supposedly on our own side.

In April I will be attending the Homes for Horses Conference and one of the topics discussed will be an accredidation program which is sorely needed. There are great rescues out there and great organizations, but they are seldom recognized because of the bad acts of others. An accreditation program will be helpful in sorting these things out and when I return I will post information on it for those interested. I hope that others don't think this is representative of the great groups that are out there. Most are responsible wonderful groups that work on shoestrings because some people hesitate to donate because of the bad folks out there. Like any industry we have good and bad, but the focus is on the bad and I am tired of it.

Let's all move on now and focus more on those whose great intentions are not distracted by fame, glory and money. Thanks for bearing with me on my little rant.

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