Familiarity with the issue and its seriousness is highest among veterinarians and breeders, at 89 percent each, followed by
other stakeholder groups.
The survey says the problem in 2009 is not only perceived to be increasing significantly, but the detrimental effects are
being felt in all states.
Table 3 Common reasons horses become unwanted
Among the more disturbing survey observations is a dramatic rise in horse neglect, abandonment and abuse, trumpeted by hundreds
of write-in comments from across the country such as these:
» "Left to starve, abandoned by owners"
» "Turned out in the wild, and even along freeways"
» "Tied to a stranger's trailer"
» "Let loose to die in the woods"
» "Left to run wild or to die by the roadside"
» "Starved to death"
» "Abandoned, left to die without food or water"
» "Horses are being dropped off at auctions"
» "Horses are showing up on public lands."
As chairman of the UHC, Tom Lenz, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACT, of Louisburg, Kan., has made numerous presentations on the issue, most
recently at the AHC annual convention in Washington. "Three or four years ago, there wasn't a lot of talk about it, but nowadays
there's so much interest I could give a speech about it every day," Lenz told DVM Newsmagazine at last year's American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) convention.
Most appealing solutions
With the exception of rescue/adoption facilities, all survey groups cited horse owners as having the primary responsibility
for solving the unwanted-horse problem, followed closely by horse breeders. Persons associated with rescue facilities say
breeders and equine associations are most responsible, followed by owners.
Least appealing solutions
The survey found that horse rescue/adoption facilities currently are turning away 38 percent of the horses brought to them,
that 39 percent of them are at maximum capacity and 30 percent are at 75 percent to 99 percent of capacity.
With an average annual budget of $2,300 needed to care for one horse, the industry says it would need $25.7 million just to
care for horses that currently are being turned away.
Of several solutions proposed, these four ranked as the "most appealing" by survey respondents:
» Educate owners to purchase and own responsibly
» Increase the ability of private rescue/retirement facilities to care for unwanted horses
» Reopen U.S. processing plants (Montana recently passed a law to allow them, and several other states are considering
» Increase options and resources for euthanization.