Data indicates that early detection and intervention with humane cases and education focusing on the costs and responsibilities associated with horse ownership are key steps toward addressing the issue of unwanted horses.
The recent increase in the number of unwanted horses in the U.S. has gained national attention. Before education efforts can be developed and targeted, a better understanding of the scope and costs of the unwanted horse problem is necessary.
The goal of this project, conducted at the University of Minnesota and Texas A & M University, was to document factors and costs associated with unwanted horses in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Texas. From March through August 2012, the Minnesota Animal Humane Society (MN AHS) collected data on equine-related humane investigations, including live horses involved, carcasses found on-site, horses seized, other animals found on site and mileage associated with the investigations. Between March and May 2012, a Minnesota renderer collected data on number of horses rendered, breed, age, manner of and reason for death, and cost of rendering. From March through August 2012, four equine rescues located in Minnesota (n=2), Wisconsin (n=1), and Texas (n=1), collected data on number of horses rescued, adopted out, and euthanized, as well as costs associated with these horses. The rescues also provided a summary of fundraising and marketing efforts. Data collection continued through February 2013.
The MN AHS investigated 53 properties, involving 349 live horses. Of the live horses investigated, 28 were seized. The investigations uncovered 2 equine and 1 bovine carcasses, and other animals present on the properties included dogs, cats, llamas, donkeys, poultry, small ruminants, and cattle. Humane agents logged 4,297 miles investigating these cases at a cost of $2,389 (federal reimbursement rate of $0.556/mile).
The renderer picked up 37 equine carcasses. The average age of rendered horses was 18 years, and the dominant breed was the Quarter Horse (n=20). A majority of the horses were chemically euthanized (n=32), and injury and advanced age of the horse were the two most common reason given for euthanasia; however, this information was not always available. Two horses were euthanized due to being unwanted. The average cost of rendering was $168 per horse.
Combined, the four rescues took in 89 horses, of which 7 were returned from previous adoptions. Ten of these were euthanized. Of the remaining horses (n=79), 21 were placed into foster homes, 35 were adopted, 3 were transferred to another rescue; the rest were kept onsite. The average cost for euthanasia was $237; however, some rescues received discounts from veterinarians. On average, rescues invested $285 per horse in veterinary and shipping costs. Rescues listed a number of methods to raise funds and improve adoptability of horses, including trainers' challenges, social media, and newspaper stories.
This data indicates that early detection and intervention with humane cases and education focusing on the costs and responsibilities associated with horse ownership are key steps toward addressing the issue of unwanted horses.
SK Beeson, WJ Weber, JH Wilson, DH Sigler, EC Glunk, and KL Martinson