Saturday, February 28, 2009

AHC to make it official: Horse slaugher a necessary evil

AHC / "Un-Wanted" Horse Coalition news contained within article below;
I say we really let them have it this year!

"Friends of Equines FOES of Equine Slaughter"
"Because We Care Enough to Protest & Demand"


Hard Times for Horses


MONA T. KANCIPER scanned the pastures that ring her blue and white
barn, now at close to capacity and crammed with four-legged creatures
temporarily, and in some instances permanently, residing here for lack of
anywhere else to go. As the hard-driving president of New York Horse Rescue a nonprofit organization that had its
origins in the rehabilitation of racetrack castoffs but now copes with all
breeds in all manner of predicaments, she is more interested in rescuing
horses than whispering to them. But, like most horse-lovers, she occasionally
does that as well.

By chance, she met the liquid brown eye of a previously homeless,
malnourished and unwanted Irish thoroughbred named Maple, plucked
from a backyard shed on Long Island. His ribs poked out like bicycle
spokes and his attitude verged on sour when she took him in. Hunger and loneliness
had taken a toll. Trust issues? He had those, too.

"This is definitely a very bad time to be a horse," Ms. Kanciper
said, confirming the negative development - driven by panicky, cash-
strapped owners and an unforgiving economy - that has uprooted Maple and an
as-yet-unknown number of his species. Reports of a surge in
abandoned or neglected horses; of overcrowded rescue, auction and retirement
facilities; and of unwanted equines being fattened in feedlots before being
shipped to slaughter in Mexico and in Canada have prompted the Unwanted Horse
Coalition, an offshoot of the
American Horse Council, to undertake a national survey on the problem.

According to Dr. Tom Lenz, a veterinarian who is the chairman of the
coalition, although the elimination of domestic slaughterhouses has
reduced the total number of horses killed, 100,000 to 150,000 are still
exported for slaughter each year. "So we know they're unwanted," he
said. "America needs a wake-up call about this issue. The general population
has this love affair with the horse without realizing the costs and complications of
owning horses in this economy."

The expense of euthanizing horses that are sick, lame, old or
dangerous is creating an ill-timed rise in "irresponsible owners," Dr. Lenz
said, and a new class of unwanted - and in some cases discarded - beasts. He
finds logic in California's proactive, if grim, response to the problem: It has
established low-cost equine euthanasia centers.

Results of the national survey on abandoned horses are scheduled
for release next month. But those in the rescue business, like Ms. Kanciper,
46, who worked in Manhattan as a commercial real estate appraiser before
transforming her Long Island farm into a horse haven in 1998,
already have the living data occupying their barns and straining their financial
resources. When donations, adoption fees and her twice-yearly fund-
raisers fall short of covering the rescue operation's annual expenses of
$150,000 to $200,000, Ms. Kanciper supplements the budget from her own pocket.
She and others running rescue organizations say that the economy has left
fewer people willing, or able, to help.

"Nobody's adopting these horses; it's been kind of a record winter
in that regard," said Patty Wahlers, who operates the Humane Organization
Representing Suffering Horses, a rescue
facility on 47 acres in Washington, Conn. Besides the dozens of
horses, many of them retired police horses, she sustains on her farm, she
supplies a feed-assistance program that is helping five other horses stay with
their owners.

"Hopefully the people who genuinely want to keep their horses are
getting smarter about spending and learning to conserve, to cut back on
shows, lessons, trailering and whatnot," she said.

At Ray of Light Farm East
Haddam, Conn., Bonnie Buongiorne said the faltering economy has caused her
to re-evaluate her mission. Since 2004 she focused on finding homes for
unwanted foals that are an inevitable byproduct of the manufacture
of Premarin, a hormone replacement therapy drug made in Canada using
urine from pregnant mares. Now, based on calls she gets from people who say
they cannot make a commitment to adopt Premarin foals because they cannot
afford to keep the horses they already own, Ms. Buongiorne says she thinks her
rescue efforts may need to be redirected closer to home. "We may have to
rethink what we're trying to accomplish and concentrate on helping out the
horse owners in our own backyard," she said.

Though it is a less dire phenomenon than horses being dumped at
auction, there is an unprecedented glut of horses being offered for outright
adoption or free lease by owners who suddenly cannot afford the upkeep,
which in the New York metropolitan area can range anywhere from $350 a month for
rough board (figure on shoveling manure and supplying the feed yourself)
to the $2,500 per month (exclusive of lessons, training or other add-ons)
charged by top-shelf equestrian boarding facilities. The cost of an
adequate supply of hay and grain to feed a thousand-pound horse is $400 a month.

Art Morano, who owns Stargate Farm ,
a 70-stall equestrian facility in Allentown, N.J., confirms that the
recession has left his business suffering. "We're hanging on by the threads,"
Mr.Morano said. "Last year at this time I maybe had five empty stalls.
Now there's 35."

Boarders who owned multiple horses, he said, are culling their
herds or getting out of ownership altogether. A major blow to his barn came
last fall when Frank Hernandez, a trainer who had 22 hunter jumper horses
under his direction at Stargate, took a position in Tennessee because the
signs were evident that business in New Jersey, where he had worked about 20
years, was trailing off.

At Twin Lakes Farm in Bronxville,
home to 30 lesson horses and 25 private boarders, the riding instructors
still give an average of 1,500 lessons each month, but a significant statistic
has reversed itself in the past year.

"It used to be that 80 percent of the kids took lessons twice a
week and 20 percent came once a week, but now it's the exact opposite," said
Scott Tartar, the owner-manager. "So we're doing the same amount of
lessons, but we're teaching twice as many kids."

The barn has also cut back on its horse show excursions. It once
sent out 8 to 10 clients and their horses each weekend; now it transports just
5 show participants every other weekend. Sales are basically at a

"February was always a slow month, but it's gone from slow to
closed," Mr. Tartar said.

There is no seller's market for midrange horses either. At Wit
's End Farm in Jackson, N.J., Yolanda
Mazzarisi is asking $30,000 for Oops, $25,000 for Edelweiss, both mixed-breed
warmbloods, and $20,000 for Amigo del Diablo, a large pony, but has
not received any serious offers.

"The economy has reduced our income, which is why we are selling
them and probably a fourth horse," Ms. Mazzarisi said. "And we'll definitely
have to negotiate our prices the same as anyone out there who's trying to
sell anything."

In the Hamptons, Christine Barrett-Distefano runs the Amaryllis
Farm Equine Rescue, an antislaughter network that
since 2005 has rescued 76 horses, many of them elderly or sickly. This winter,
she said, the sanctuary has been overwhelmed by returnees and besieged
by newcomers surrendered by cost-cutting owners.

"Aramis was returned by his adoptive family because the builder dad
saw a huge decline in work," Ms. Barrett-Distefano said as she began to
name a few. "Star and Trace were adopted to a real estate broker in Lake
Placid, and we just sent them money for feed because we don't have room for
them here. Arapahoe is a paint pony who was desperate for housing when
his owner, a dog-groomer and mother of three, could no longer afford his board
bills when the dog-grooming business dropped off."

The situation in a nutshell: People lose their jobs or their
bonuses. Next they lose their animals.

"Everybody's interpretation of financial hardship is different,"
said Ms. Kanciper, who began adopting washed-up thoroughbreds from local
tracks 10 years ago. "But in an uncertain economy like this, the first thing
to go are the so-called luxury items like horses and boats. Except that boats
don't have feelings."

Horses not only react to pain but also bond with their human
handlers, which is why Ms. Kanciper, although not opposed to euthanasia, does not
regard it as an answer to the plight of the horses in her care unless they
are hobbled by chronic pain or are terminally ill. "I try not to be a softy -
in my business you really can't if you want to survive - but it's very
hard to euthanize a horse," she said. "You look into those big brown
trusting eyes, and. ..." It's a last resort.

Maple, the headstrong 11-year-old gelding whose only sin was being a
slowpoke on the track and a financial drag on the Long Island owner
who acquired him after his racing career expired, did not shrink from
Ms. Kanciper's gaze. "When you want to be an adoption facility, not a
euthanasia facility, sometimes you have to make hard choices about the horses
you agree to take in," she said.

And Maple? "He's adoptable," she said. "He just needs the right

Offered a carrot, Maple cheerfully accepted it. So did
Lunaticonthegrass, a chestnut gelding both younger and mellower than Maple, and Mr. T, a nearly 30-year-old roan quarter horse seized in a neglect case by the
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to

Here, these unwanted herd animals live in a full-service facility
with ample equine companionship instead of languishing alone in a backyard.
They are fed twice a day and ridden regularly by Ms. Kanciper and an
assistant to give them a better chance of being deemed adoptable by people
wanting pleasure horses, not pasture pets.

Compared with some, Maple and Lunatic, the sweet-tempered 4-year-old
thoroughbred who, despite his name, lacked the competitive instinct
to excel on the turf, have it made. Should nobody else ever want them, Ms.
Kanciper guarantees them a forever home for the remainder of their natural

Or until her hay runs out, which is becoming an unsettling
possibility, with too many mouths to feed and - as a nonprofit dependent on
contributions - not enough money to cover the escalating costs of food and bedding.
Hers is a plaint shared by many in the rescue business.

"Donations are down by 75 percent this winter, and adoptions are
down by 75 percent as well," she said. "I'm down to my last $1,000 in the hay

I've got 10 or 15 horses on my waiting list, and in the last six
weeks there's been a tremendous number of people calling me up, begging
and crying, and asking me to take their horses because they can't
afford to feed them anywhere. The economy is making people desperate. But I can't
take in more horses than I can feed. Do that and you defeat your own
purpose and risk becoming a rescue case yourself."

Around 50 horses, including 20 she owns, reside at Ms. Kanciper's
two rescue facilities. The main one is the 50-acre farm she owns with her
husband, Dr. Judson L. Butler, an equine veterinarian here on Long Island (where
the horse population is estimated at 40,000). The second is five miles
away at Hart's Cove in East Moriches, a former potato farm that is now home
to a gated community that includes eight horses and an upscale condo-and-
town house subdivision. Thanks to an open space covenant, Ms. Kanciper
leases the barn and pastures for $1 a year. The catch is that the arrangement
specifies a maximum of eight horses. Stall space is maxed out until Lunatic
or one of his ex-racehorse pals finds a home.

Last month Ms. Kanciper received a distraught call from Carolyn
LeRoy, of Ridge in Suffolk County, who adopted a thoroughbred, Reno, now 8,
from her in 2004 but is struggling to pay his feed and maintenance bills.
Ms. LeRoy asked Ms. Kanciper if she could take the horse back. Ms.
Kanciper, knowing Reno has a good home, asked Ms. LeRoy to try and keep him
and volunteered her husband, Dr. Butler, to handle any medical
emergencies. "It took the pressure off," said Ms. LeRoy, who also has a 32-year-old
horse she has owned for three decades. "I'd rather die than give my old guy
away. And if Reno left, it would break the old guy's heart. I'm in a bad
place with this."

Ms. LeRoy's husband has since persuaded her to hang onto the horses
she loves and cut corners elsewhere in their budget for as long as
necessary; not having to worry about any horse-size emergency veterinary bills
has made that option possible. But most owners cannot count on a Dr. Butler
to help them navigate financial and medical setbacks.

There are some happy endings. Five abused horses seized last year
by the Suffolk County Society for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have all been adopted; 15 rescued horses, many
of them bound for slaughter, now live in style at the Baiting
> Hollow Farm Vineyard;
and Whinny the Blue, an arthritic paint pony taken in by Ms. Kanciper, found a
home last month as a pasture companion in Mattituck.
Her departure freed up one spot; predictably, the organization made
room for two, Royal Congaree and Baby Suave. Hard to say no to a
thoroughbred filly named Baby Suave.

1 comment:

Jai said...

Is this a poem,it rather looks like a poem nor an essay, but over all it was a Good read.