Group Title: 2009 Florida Equine Institute proceedings
Title: Own responsibility with the unwanted horse coalition
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 Material Information
Title: Own responsibility with the unwanted horse coalition
Series Title: 2009 Florida Equine Institute proceedings
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: House, Amanda
Publisher: Institute of Food and Agricultural Science, University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Copyright Date: 2009
General Note: 2009 Florida Equine Institute proceedings
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Bibliographic ID: UF00095750
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.


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Own Responsibility with the Unwanted Horse Coalition
By Amanda M. House, DVM, DACVIM
Assistant Professor
University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine

Although the number is difficult to document, the Unwanted Horse Coalition (UHC)
estimates that each year there are approximately 130,000-170,000 "unwanted" horses in the
United States. The mission of the Unwanted Horse Coalition is to reduce the number of
unwanted horses and to improve their welfare through education and the efforts of organizations
committed to the health, safety, and responsible care and disposition of the horse. The UHC is
an educational organization striving to provide resources to the public, horse owners, and those
who hope to purchase horses in the future. It is not a political organization seeking to lobby for
or against horse processing legislation. The UHC encourages us all to "Own Responsibility", so
how do we do that? How did we get to this point? And who really are the "unwanted" horses?
The phrase "unwanted horse" was first coined in 2005 by the American Association of
Equine Practitioners (AAEP). Unwanted horses are horses that are no longer wanted by their
current owner because they are old, sick, injured, unmanageable, or fail to meet their owner's
expectations. They may be horses that are incurably lame, dangerous, are too expensive to care
for, have behavioral problems, or many other reasons. Some unwanted horses are normal,
healthy horses of various ages and breeds. The unwanted horse issue in the United States began
to gain media attention in 2001, following the Foot and Mouth disease epidemic in Europe. This
epidemic resulted in decreased consumption of beef and a subsequent increased demand for
horse meat, which drew attention to horses being processed in the United States for human
consumption. The number of unwanted horses in the United States has varied from year to year,
with as many as 315,192 horses being processed in 1990 to 58,443 processed in 2007 (statistics
from USDA Veterinary Services). In 2007, +35,000 horses were exported to Canada for
processing, +45,000 were exported to Mexico for processing, +21,000 un-adoptable feral horses
were kept in Bureau of Land Management (BLM) funded long-term sanctuaries, 9,000 feral
horses were in the BLM adoption pipeline, and an undisclosed number were abandoned,
neglected or abused. The types and genders of horses that are sent to processing plants reflect
the demographics of the U.S horse population, with no specific gender or breed standing out as
the quintessential unwanted horse.
According to the 2005 USDA National Animal Health Monitoring System Survey, the
total mortality for horses in the United States is 3-4% per year. Broken down, approximately
167,000 horses (1.8%) 1 month old or older were euthanized or died, and approximately 112,000
horses (1.3%) were processed for meat. There has been minimal variation in these numbers over
the last decade. Dr. Tom Lenz of the AAEP presents this critical question: If the option of
annually removing unwanted horses from the general horse population via euthanasia at a
processingplant is legislated out of existence, will the horse industry be able to provide
adequate care and accommodations for these animals or will the industry need to absorb the
cost of their euthanasia and carcass disposal (estimated at $186/per horse for carcass disposal)?
According to study results presented by North et al at the Annual World and Agribusiness
Forum, it costs $2,340 per year to maintain a horse. I think most of us would agree that it is a
conservative number. Depending on the number of unwanted horses in a given year, it could be

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as much as 234 million dollars per year to provide care for 100,000 horses. Unfortunately, a
large source of funding for the care of these horses has yet to be identified.
Federal horse slaughter legislation efforts began in 2001 and most bills have not been
passed or are still pending. In 2006, the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act was passed in
the house but not considered in the senate. The horse industry was very concerned with this act,
and the AAEP, American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), American Veterinary Medical
Association (AVMA), and multiple others opposed the legislation. These organizations should
not be considered "pro-slaughter"; they opposed the legislation because it had no infrastructure
to address the welfare of horses no longer removed from the horse population. The American
Horse Slaughter Prevention Act did not address carcass disposal issues, did not provide an
enforcement plan or agency, and did not provide funding to care for unwanted horses. The
Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of 2009 is the most current pending federal legislation. This
act amends the Horse Protection Act and makes it illegal to sell or ship horses to slaughter for
human consumption. It would also prevent the export of horses to Mexico or Canada for
processing. Similar to the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, but with additional
amendments, the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of 2009 is also opposed by many in the horse
industry. On the other hand, the Horse Transportation Safety Act of 2009 (HR 305, Kirk), which
prohibits transportation of all horses in double decker trailers, has been widely supported by
most in the equine industry. The closing of the three horse processing plants in the United States
(two in Texas and one in Illinois) were a result of state, and not federal, legislation. The closing
of the U.S. processing plants, which were overseen by the USDA and their veterinarians, will
now result in horses being transported longer distances without APHIS oversight and processed
at foreign facilities not under the USDA's jurisdiction. Legislation at the state level was
introduced in Montana that may allow construction of horse processing facilities there. The
Montana bill (HB 418), which promotes privately-owned horse processing plant development in
that state, became a law in Montana on May 1, 2009. In short, however, most state and federal
legislation related to these issues remains pending.
So what are the current options for unwanted horses? Ideally, many horses would benefit
from a change in occupation, rescue or retirement, adoption, donation to a teaching and/or
research program, or donation to a therapeutic riding program. Euthanasia at a processing plant
in Canada or Mexico, and euthanasia at the request of the owner on a farm or at a clinic remain
current options as well. Abuse, neglect, starvation, and abandonment are the outcomes that all in
the horse industry are hoping to prevent. Horse rescue, adoption, and retirement facilities across
the United States are making concerted efforts to provide care, funding, and suitable
accommodations for these horses. The capacity of these facilities is unknown but certainly not
endless, and the AAEP estimates that the current organizations in the U.S. could rescue, retire, or
find homes for no more than 10,000 horses per year. We need to continue supporting the great
work and efforts of these organizations.
The Unwanted Horse Coalition was established out of the Unwanted Horse Summit,
hosted by the AAEP and American Horse Council in Washington, DC in 2005. The goal of this
meeting was to develop a long range strategy to address the problem of the unwanted horse in
the U.S. The meeting determined that we have a significant unwanted horse issue and that our
current rescue and retirement facilities cannot accommodate 100,000 plus horses per year. As a
large funding source is not available to address this issue, the summit determined a need for pre-
ownership education and responsible horse ownership. The UHC was subsequently formed from
a broad alliance of equine organizations under the American Horse Council in 2006 to raise

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awareness on the issue and its consequences to horses and the horse industry. All members of
the UHC are too numerous to mention but include the AAEP, AVMA, AQHA, American
Humane Association, The Jockey Club, Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, the
American Paint Horse Association, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, and the U.S.
Equestrian Federation. The UHC is working to educate horse owners and potential owners on
alternative careers for horses, end of life decisions, and raise awareness of the issue and its
consequences through their website ( ), brochures, articles, and
a national speaker program. Most of the educational resources and rescue/retirement facility lists
are downloadable from the UHC website.
The UHC encourages us all to "own responsibility". This means that before purchasing
or breeding a horse, to consider all of the responsibilities associated with ownership from care
and medical needs to end of life decisions. We should consider all options available before
horses become unwanted, and be aware of training and use of horses to enable them to have a
long career and not become "used up". The UHC also encourages all organizations, sales
companies, and service providers in the horse industry to point out these responsibilities to
newcomers. We need to work with federal, state, and local officials to ensure viable carcass
disposal options exist for horses that have died or are euthanized. Hopefully, working together
to educate and address this problem will prevent the large number of unwanted horses before
they become unwanted. Additionally, the AAEP and Intervet Schering-Plough Animal Health
have joined together for a non-profit program called The Unwanted Horse Veterinary Relief
Campaign. This program distributes complimentary equine vaccines to rescue and retirement
facilities throughout the U.S (additional information can be found at ). Please
help us spread the word about this critical issue, and if you are interested in a speaker for your
upcoming event, please contact the UHC at 202-296-4031.

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