If horse owners and groups closely allied to them were to contribute money — as many who took part in a recent online survey indicated they were willing to do — they could make a substantial impact toward solving the nation's problem of unwanted and neglected horses,
A conservative estimate distilled from the Unwanted Horse Coalition's recently published online survey shows some $163 million could be raised if 48 percent of an estimated two million horse owners and horse-industry stakeholders each contributed only $50, 13 percent of them $250 each and 5 percent contributed $500 each.
"Horse owners indicate they are willing to donate money, and this may bring in much of the necessary support for rescue and adoption facilities and other programs," the UHC says in a statement within the survey.
The allies of horse owners, or industry stakeholders, referred to in the survey include horse breeders and trainers, veterinarians and veterinary associations, humane societies, boarding facilities, business corporations, animal scientists and others.
Much of the total that potentially could be raised might go to horse rescue, adoption and retraining facilities, which depend heavily on public and private donations. Survey respondents in that group say more than one-fourth of the financing needed to keep them operating comes from owners' personal incomes. Another 58 percent comes from donations and the rest from selling horses, boarding and riding fees, lessons, events and member dues.
The facilities report they turn away some 38 percent of the horses brought to them, with 39 percent of them now at maximum capacity, 30 percent at 75 percent or more of capacity, 26 percent at 50 percent capacity and the rest below half of their capacity. Based on the $2,300 needed to care for one horse, the industry will need a minimum of $25.7 million just to care for horses now being turned away, the survey shows.
Of the four "most appealing" solutions survey respondents chose overall for dealing with unwanted horses, helping rescue/adoption and retraining facilities ranked No. 2, right after "educating horse owners to buy and own more responsibly."
While there is much disagreement on the No. 3 most popular solution — reopening U.S. processing plants — all groups strongly agree on the No. 4 best solution, increasing options and resources to humanely euthanize unwanted horses. "More options and resources in this area likely would require funding programs, as well as veterinarians with specialized skills," the UHC says.
The survey was launched last December and drew some 27,000 responses through February. Results were posted recentlly on the UHC's Web site, www.unwantedhorsecoalition.org.