Thursday, June 11, 2009

What is the AHDF?

There is confusion over what exactly the AHDF is and what we do. Simply put, we are the humane organization for the equine* world. We are NOT an animal rights group. We are a welfare organization. We represent our members and the American public's interests in equine welfare-related legislation and litigation through:
  • conducting member and public targeted information campaigns
  • advocating for the humane treatment of all equine
  • supporting the legislative process through research and targeted informational products
All too often the terms "rights" and "welfare" are used interchangeably by those who maybe trying to promote their own agenda. As the differences can be confusing, here it is in simple terms: Many animal rights groups believe animals have a certain rights, with some even going so far as to say that animals should have the same rights as people (think of an organization that is known by its four-letter acronym beginning with P). While, animal welfare groups promote the humane treatment of animals.

When and where possible fiscally and physically, AHDF supports equine rescues, but we are not a rescue. We wish that we could do more for our equine rescue friends, but our limited funding does not allow us to do all we would like to do. We have numerous projects on the shelf, waiting for their very deserving needs. At this time our efforts are limited to promoting rescues and providing resources for them. Although we have been known to rescue or facilitate the rescue of horses on very special occasion, that is not one of our primary missions. We provide information on the care of horses for the novice owner and others with answers to common questions. We also provide information about our Nation's wild horses and burros....America's horses and burros. We also advocate for proper management and healthy wild herds.

About 95% of our members are equine owners, who are generally aware of the issues facing horses today. Our members are mostly horse owners, who intend to use their animals for responsible breeding, riding, showing and recreational use. Fifty percent of our members are also the owners and/or operators of rescues. Our demographics show that AHDF is uniquely positioned to address the needs of equine with horse's best interests at heart. One could say that the AHDF is the humane horse association. However, we certainly do not restrict our membership to horse owners.

The AHDF actively advocates for the introduction and passage of legislation relating to the humane treatment of horses, including but not limited to prohibition of horse slaughter for human consumption and the preservation of America's wild horses. As many have come to understand over the last several years in the face of our digital communications world, face-to-face interaction and discussions are essential to effective advocacy with legislators and other stake holders. Funding for those expenses have been paid by from the personal resources of the AHDF board members, however despite modest success from our efforts, that has that has proven too costly to continue. Therefore to continue our efforts to advocate in the halls of Congress, the AHDF must begin identifying and access available funding sources to assist with those costs, to the extent allowable by law.

The AHDF has been active in influencing legislative efforts since our founder assisted in the introduction of the first anti-horse slaughter bill. Unlike other groups, our attention is not divided among many species, but is focused 100% on horses, and we do not differentiate among breeds either. That isn't to say that our members, staff and board don't care about other species or have a favorite breed, but that our focus is on all equine and equine alone,. That hopefully makes us more effective through focusing our attention from the issues facing horses, burros and other equine.

Unlike larger organizations and even some rescues, the AHDF does not have a single paid staff member, has no large benefactor or a large pool of regular donors. We are a member driven organization. The AHDF is run and operated 100% by volunteers and we have no intention of ever changing that. Our core of dedicated people have accomplished amazing things through their heroic efforts. All with very limited external resources....they are all truly amazing and dedicated people. We greatly appreciate and admire our the tireless and often under appreciated work of our Nation's equine rescue counterparts. However there are much better positioned organizations in existence to support their efforts and since they are only one component of the humane treatment of horses equation, AHDF must focus its efforts on seeing through the enactment of humane-related legislation to remain true to our charter. Not to begrudge any organizations or their efforts, with a mere quarter of what some national organizations have at their disposal, AHDF could apply substantially greater influence and make a world of difference. Simply put, AHDF suffers from the same issues as our many rescues - a lack of funding. We have posted several blogs on the issue, but funding is CRITICAL for real humane change as those who are opposed to it are more than well-funded, extremely influential and very much opposed to doing the right thing.

For our long term supporters, we appreciate you and apologize for the need to explain what we do. For those new to AHDF, we hope this better explains what we do.

* Note: We use the words equine and horses interchangeably, but our meaning is always all members of the species equid.

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