Abuse, neglect and horse prices
In Colorado alone, investigations of horse neglect and abuse increased by more than 60 percent from 2005 to 2010, according
to GAO. California, Texas and Florida also reported more cases of abandonment since the closure of slaughter facilities in
Abuse in most cases is not direct or planned, the report notes, but a result of the lower horse prices caused by cessation
of domestic slaughter and the economic downturn. Fewer horse sales and auctions have taken place since 2007, report the state
veterinarians interviewed by GAO. They attribute that decline in part to lower horse prices and sales commissions since the
cessation of domestic slaughter. An 8 percent to 21 percent drop depending on the class of horse has been attributed to the
cessation of domestic slaughter, whereas only a 5 percent decline across all horse-class categories is traced back to the
economic downturn, GAO says.
Humane groups that pushed for the closure of domestic slaughter facilities say, in the wake of the report's findings, that
there are options available to horse owners in dire straits without resorting to slaughter, neglect or abandonment.
"This situation can only be resolved by greater outreach and information about the private responsibilities and expense of
horse ownership, and the options available to struggling horse owners such as adoptions and rescue groups," says Michael Markarian,
president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.
Yet the GAO report notes that horse adoptions have dwindled and even rescue groups are challenged to meet the need presented
by the growing numbers of unwanted horses.
"Officials said horse rescue operations in their states are at, or near, maximum capacity, with some taking on more than they
can properly care for since the cessation of domestic slaughter," GAO reports. "State veterinarians also described situations
in which counties and sheriff departments were reluctant to investigate reports of abandoned or neglected horses because these
jurisdictions lacked resources."
The Humane Society of the United States contends that abandonments happened before the cessation of domestic slaughter, too,
and that owners who choose to abandon horses will do so whether they have the option of domestic slaughter or not. Additionally,
HSUS points out that there is no good data on horse abandonments, but says the abandonment of all types of domesticated animals
has increased as the economy worsened.