Washington — Reopening of U.S. processing plants is among the four most popular solutions suggested for dealing with increasing numbers
of unwanted horses nationwide, based on an online survey of horse owners, industry stakeholders and other interested parties.
The survey, conducted by the Unwanted Horse Coalition (UHC), operating through the National Horse Council (NHC), was conducted
from last December through February of this year. Complete results haven't been published yet, but UHC Chairman Tom Lenz,
DVM, MS, Dipl. ACT, provided some of the highlights June 17 at the AHC "Welfare of the Horse" forum in Washington, D.C.
The survey had 23,151 respondents, with participants directed to either of two surveys, one for horse owners and the other
for industry stakeholders and non-horse owners interested in the issue. Industry stakeholders include veterinarians, professional
trainers and breeders, rescue facility operators, academics and equine association staff members. The UHC reports a survey
confidence interval of 95 percent, and no significant difference in responses by region or state.
The survey's overall top four solutions to the unwanted-horse problem were educating owners on responsible ownership, increasing
the ability of private rescue and retirement facilities to care for more horses, reopening U.S. processing plants and increased
options and resources to euthanize and dispose of unwanted horses.
The survey noted that horse owners and stakeholders have a set of shared beliefs, as do equine rescue operators and non-owners.
Some beliefs are shared, but — particularly on reopening processing plants — are in opposition.
The survey notes these points about rescue groups and non-owner interested parties: Rescue operators are voluntary caretakers
passionate about their work, voice opinions through the media and other public forums and believe processing plants should
never be reopened. They cite the economy and irresponsible breeding as the main causes of the unwanted-horse problem.
Of the shared beliefs of stakeholders and horse owners, the survey notes: Horses are an integral part of their lifestyle and
livelihood; they believe the media and public don't fully understand the challenges of caring for, training and maintaining
horses; believe processing plants should be reopened; that owners should be better educated; and that funding for rescues
should be increased. They cite the closing of the plants, the economy, irresponsible breeding and high cost of euthanasia/disposal
as the top contributors to the problem.
Among other findings, the survey also noted that public perception that unwanted horses have become a critical problem has
escalated, although familiarity with the issue obviously is highest among those closest to it.