Monday, December 20, 2010

Horse rescue resources well short of level needed - study - International horse news

December 21, 2010
Non-profit equine rescues in the United States are struggling with insufficient resources to meet growing demand for their services, a study has found.

Horses involved in a rescue in Texas this month by the Humane Society of the United States, SPCA of East Texas and Humane Society of North Texas.
The research, published in an open-access article in the journal of the American Society of Animal Science, concluded that non-profit equine rescue and sanctuary facilities appeared to be struggling with insufficient resources to meet what it called increasing demand for accepting, caring, and providing sanctuary or finding new homes for unwanted horses.
"Most relinquishing owners were financially or physically unable to continue caring for the horses," the three researchers from the University of California, Davis, wrote.
K.E. Holcomb, C.L. Stull and P.H. Kass, from the Population Health and Reproduction Department at the university's School of Veterinary Medicine, said rescue organisations invested money and time rehabilitating horses to health and provided training to increase their marketability to potential adopters.
"But for every four horses that entered a non-profit facility, only three horses were adopted or sold.
"Without additional resources, the non-profit equine organisations cannot predictably expand to provide quality care and rehabilitation for more than 13,700 horses, only a fraction of the estimated 100,000 unwanted horses in the United States," they wrote.
Their survey of equine rescues showed that funding was identified as the greatest challenge by 74.8 per cent of organisations, followed by having adequate housing (11.8 per cent), promotional activities (2.4 per cent), personnel to care for horses (0.8 per cent) and "other" (10.2 per cent).
Responses listed for "other" included combinations of funding with the other factors, as well as "finding good homes".
The major funding sources identified by 50.4 per cent and 38.8 per cent of organisations respectively were individual donations and personal funds.
"Federal, state, and local grants were not considered a major source of funding in 95 per cent of the organisations," they noted.
"Most organisations also received funding from several different sources, including fundraising, private foundations, corporate sponsorship, sale of miscellaneous items, and adoption fees."
The researchers' findings were based on a 90-question survey of horse rescues. In total, 144 of 326 eligible rescue groups responded to the survey, from 37 states.
They also provided for analysis information on 280 cases representative of the 7990 horses relinquished between 2007 and 2009.
Data collected characterised these organisations as being in existence for six years, financially supported through donations and personal funds, dedicated to the care of only 10 to 20 horses on a property of just over 30 acres, and reliant on volunteers for help.
The researchers found that the number of requests received by organisations to accept horses since January 2008 had increased for 83.9 per cent of respondents, decreased for 5.6 per cent, or showed no change for 10.5 per cent.
The total numbers of horses actually accepted by the 144 rescues in 2007 and 2008 were 2602 and 2801, respectively. An accurate 2009 total could not be calculated on available data, but monthly calculations indicated an increase over the three-year period.
"The greatest single obstacle to re-homing a horse was its level of training, according to 26.9 per cent of responding organisations," the researchers noted.
"This factor was followed in order by age (20.8 per cent), lameness (19.2 per cent), health (11.5 per cent), behaviour (9.2 per cent), financial issues (6.2 per cent), finding qualified owners (4.6 per cent), and finally by the type or breed of horse (1.5 per cent)."
The majority of horses - 60.6 per cent, or 279 - were voluntarily relinquished or donated to the rescue group. Horses seized by law enforcement agencies and impounded at the facility accounted for 15.1 per cent.
"Owner-related issues were more likely to contribute to the relinquishment of a horse to a non-profit organisation than horse-related characteristics or unknown factors.
"Within owner-related relinquishment factors, financial hardship, and the physical condition of the owner to care for the horse were the most common, including the death of the owner in five cases.
"Within the horse-related factors contributing to relinquishment, health problems accounted for almost one-half, followed by horses that were unsuited for the purpose of the owner and those relinquished for behavioural issues."
The researchers said 23 horses were relinquished for behavioural reasons, with traits that included injuring people (five horses), showing aggression toward people (10) or other horses (7), difficulty in handling (15), or riding or training or both (14). Three horses showed undesirable traits such as cribbing or weaving.
Light-horse breeds accounted for 79.3 per cent of the equids entered in the survey as relinquished to organisations, followed by draft horses (7.1 per cent), ponies (6.8 per cent), donkeys or burros (2.9 per cent), miniature horses (2.5 per cent), and mules (1.4 per cent).
More than a dozen light-horse breeds were identified, with thoroughbreds (21.6 per cent) and quarter horses (18.9 per cent) the most represented breeds.
The researchers found that 53.2 per cent of horses arriving at facilities did not appear healthy due to conditions including illness, lameness, injury, or poor body condition.
No lameness was present in 70.4 per cent of horses.
At the time of survey, 68.8 per cent of the horses (192 of the 280) still resided at the facility of the organisation, whereas 26.2 per cent had been re-homed, and 5 per cent euthanised.
"One objective for this study was to determine the capacity of non-profit equine organisations in the United States to accept a portion of the estimated 100,000 unwanted horses per year and to approximate the cost to maintain those horses managed by non-0profit organisations.
"The total population capacity in the 144 non-profit organisations that responded to this survey was approximately 6000 horses.
"Applying the population capacity distribution of responding organisations to the 326 valid, eligible non-profit organisations contacted for this survey, the potential maximum capacity of those organisations is approximately 13,700 horses nationwide.
"This is greater than an American Association of Equine Practitioners estimate that existing equine rescue groups have the capacity to care for 6000 to 10,000 horses, yet it is well below the expected need of an estimated 100,000 unwanted horses per year (Bump, 2008; Messer, 2008).
"Even if one assumes there is an equal number of equine rescue groups that are not registered as non-profit 501(c)(3) organisations, the capacity does not currently exist to care for 100,000 horses or absorb additional unwanted horses every year.
"Furthermore, maintenance costs for the care of relinquished horses averaged $US3648 per year, including veterinary and farrier care, which was greater than the reported national average of $US2426.
"This difference may reflect the notable need for medical and nutritional rehabilitation for many of the relinquished horses.
"Extrapolating maintenance costs for the estimated maximum capacity of 13,700 horses at equine non-profit organisations in the United States using the average cost from the survey responses results in a figure of $US50 million annually."

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