HorseAid receives many calls and e-mails about equine abuse each month from well-meaning horse lovers reporting abused and neglected horses. Thankfully, most of these reports turn out to be false alarms, but each and every one has to be investigated.
the horse in question is under a vet's care, is a hard keeper (one that
has a weight problem) or is elderly. In order to save our volunteer's time
and to avoid conflict with good horse owners, please use the following
photos and checklist as a basic guide for your future reference should
you see a horse you suspect might be neglected.
While there is no definitive answer as to how fat or thin a horse should be, HorseAid employs the age-old common sense rule of thumb: "The ribs should be felt but not seen". Of course, very old horses, known hard-keepers, and the breed of horse should be taken into consideration.
One should not compare the appearance of a rotund pleasure Quarterhorse to that of a Thoroughbred in racing condition. You may like your horses with a layer of fat over the ribs, but if your neighbor prefers a more sleek, svelte appearance, that does not necessarily indicate that his animals are lacking.
When assessing the condition of the horse, many other factors aside from weight must be considered: Is the coat of the animal dull, filthy and unkempt? Does the animal suffer from muscular atrophy? Are the hooves cracked, split, or curling upward at the toe? Can you see open wounds or sores that appear to be untreated? Is there no food or water source to be seen? Is the food or water source fresh? Is the animal's environment hazardous (junk on the ground, nails protruding from fencing, etc.)? If the horses are corralled or stalled, are there several weeks accumulation of manure present? Have you personally witnessed someone physically abusing a horse? If you can answer yes to any one of these questions, then it's definitely time to notify a local humane organization known to be qualified in equine care and evaluation.
When reporting a case of equine abuse or neglect (whether it's to us or someone else), PLEASE don't exaggerate the number of animals involved or their condition. We will act as quickly on one abused or neglected horse as we would on a hundred.
sometimes have to pass the information you supply to a local humane
society or local law enforcement agency, and when the report we give is not
accurate as to the actual situation the animals are in, we all tend to look
inept, and further, it makes it that much harder for any future animal abuse
cases to be handled in an expedient manner by these same agencies (the "cry
These horses are both ribby, but far from being considered "abuse" cases.
<- click for "after" photo
These horses are both extremely underweight and malnourished.
Definite "abuse" cases! (photos taken when HA rescued them)
Unfortunately, a horse is only chattel in the eyes of the law. He has no inherent civil rights and it is not against the law in many states to beat him with a whip or to feed him just enough to get by. It may not even be against the law to shoot him in the head -- which may be kinder than letting him slowly starve to death.
Governmental humane societies are usually the only agencies empowered with any legal authority to take a horse away from an abusive owner, but in most cases the animal must be in eminent danger of death due to its untreated injuries or willful neglect before the agency will take the horse away.
Sadly, this means that many horses just hanging on -- at 200 to 300 pounds underweight -- must remain with their uncaring owners (you can help change these laws by becoming more politically active!). It is precisely cases like this that force HorseAid to effect a "self-help" rescue. You can learn much about current equine abuse issues and what you can do about them by visiting this Web site often (also see our Abuse Education Page).
The HorseAid mare "Wonder"
(on pasture at a HorseAid SafeHaven retirement shelter)
This sweet old mare (who had lost over 60% of her normal body weight by the time we learned of her) was "force" donated to HorseAid when her owners said they could no longer afford to feed her (but only after we started investigating this as an abuse case).
Sadly, she collapsed a few days later, and when the vet HorseAid called to examine her said that she could not be saved -- was humanly euthanized.
Remember...if you see someone abusing a horse, do something! If you fail to act -- both YOU and the HORSE become a victim!
Often the humane organization's officers, who are mostly familiar with small domestic pets, misdiagnose the condition of the equine (one way or the other) -- that's where HorseAid can help. We can offer expert advice and assist the local humane agency in the process of having the animal removed and in seeking aid in its subsequent care and rehabilitation, as well as offering expert testimony should the case go to court.
Take digital photos or a video recording of the horse(s). In documenting a suspected horse abuse case or sub-standard care and housing, photographic evidence of the animal's condition or keeping facilities is the single most important thing you can do. Written reports and descriptions of the abuse are always open to interpretations, a photographic record of the abuse speaks for itself.
Contact the local governmental humane agency and offer to work with them. Send a registered letter to the horse's owner offering to take the horse as a donation, or offer counseling in proper horse care.
If you are a "on-site"
witness to the abuse, the quickest way to help rectify the
abusive situation is to get involved. When it
comes to equine abuse or neglect, doing something is always MUCH better
than doing nothing!
Another two horses HorseAid was able to rescue because caring people got involved!
We have devised a simple course of action that should get you the quick results needed in cases of equine abuse or gross neglect:
The HorseAid mare "Princess"
(photo taken when we rescued her)
Princess was probably started under saddle too young, and possibly not fed properly
(she is a swayback). Abuse is not always intentional or deliberate, but it's still abuse.
Equid neglect and abuse
is a world-wide problem
As an example of how rampant equid abuse is world-wide, as of September 3, 2003, we were averaging 76 equine abuse reports per month. This also shows that people are not as afraid to get involved as they once were, and getting personally involved is the only way to put an end to the abuse.
("skinny") Harry "before" and ("skinny") Harry"after"
The HorseAid gelding "Harry"
Harry is a HorseAid
rescue case. As you can see, he made a full recovery.
His owner's excuse for Harry's deplorable condition was that he was a "hard keeper".
The HorseAid Weanling Filly "Star"
Star was a weanling Thoroughbred filly purchased at an auction by one of our HorseAid volunteers on behalf of HorseAid. Within a week of receiving this sweet little filly (and after giving her a chance at some quality time, strong pain relievers, and plenty to eat and drink — carrots were her favorite!), she was humanely euthanized (under a licensed veterinarian's recommendation and care — as Star's badly deformed leg would never be able to support her added weight as she grew).
You can view this sweet little filly's video here (944 KB, Quick Time format — 1.5 minute load time for dial-ups). Even after all the abuse and pain she had suffered at their hands, she still absolutely loved humans.
Star was accidentally stepped on by her dam when she was very young, leaving her with a painfull twisted foreleg and badly hunched shoulder blade.
Instead of seeking veterinary care, instead of having the filly put down, the breeders sold her to a horse slaughter house "middleman" who planned on putting Star out to pasture in Oregon until she reached more maturity — and a good slaughter weight and price, even though it was obvious to even a casual observer that Star was in constant pain because of her deformity (and her pain would increase as she got older and heavier).
Thankfully, our HorseAid rep happened to see Star on the killer buyer's trailer at the auction and made an immediate offer for her, thereby saving this sweet filly from those many months of suffering, and the subsequent trauma of a bolt blow to the head.
Nobody seemed to care about Star but us. Not her breeder, who thought it was more profitable to just sell her off "no questions asked" — than get her the medical attention she needed. Not the middleman "killer buyer" who was just looking for a quick profit at Star's expense. That's what the horse slaughter business is all about, greed and profit, profit and greed — there is absolutely nothing "humane" or "necessary" about the horse slaughter trade!
An "Unknown" Weanling Filly
This weanling was not so lucky. There was no compassionate HorseAid representative at the place she was sold, on the day she was sold. This weanling filly had no chance at some quality time, or plenty to eat and drink, nor was she humanely euthanized. Quite the contrary — after an 800 mile stress filled ride in an overcrowded "pot" (double-deck "potbelly" livestock trailer designed for cattle and swine), she was rewarded with a pneumatic driven bolt to the forehead that, like the horse in this video, ended up only slightly stunning her (this undercover video was shot by a HorseAid volunteer in Texas).
No matter... as you can see above, she was hoisted still alive to be rendered for her red meat — which in turn was sold in affluent foreign markets for human consumption. Why are we killing our companion animals for others to eat? Does a horse or pony deserve any worse treatment or any less protection than our other companion animals?
When will this madness end? When will you demand that it end?
The 231 surviving Hackney ponies (of the original 240 found starving and horribly abused on Neuman Stern's farm in Miami County, Kansas in late 1998), were all successfully placed in HorseAid SafeHouses (awaiting adoption) or adopted out through the HorseAid adoption programme (of those original 240 ponies, 9 had to be humanly euthanized because of severe malnourishment and/or abuse beyond the point of saving with any "quality of life" expectancy).
The HorseAid mare "Lady" (one of the Hackney ponies from this HorseAid rescue), whom a tiny group of malcontent self-appointed "horse rescue experts" on the Web and in KS/MO so vehemently championed her adopter's "good care and horse-keeping facilities", and then did everything possible to thwart our efforts in removing her from what HorseAid considered an abusive situation (as legally allowed by our signed adoption contract), died of starvation at the hands of that very same "good and caring adopter" before we could find and remove her (how ironic, considering she had already survived the horrors of Neuman Stern's farm).
This massive case of equine abuse (not the first 100+ animal equine abuse case HorseAid has been successfully involved with, but definitely the most severe) has been called the largest (and worse) recorded group of severely abused equines to be rescued in U.S. history.
But remember, they did not become that way overnight. That's what happens in unreported abuse cases, they just get worse and worse until someone gets involved. If nobody gets involved, the abuse case will eventually resolve itself when all the animals die a slow painful and undeserved death. Luckily, in this case, someone got involved.
Somewhere out there, there are more cases like this, cases that nobody will know about unless you get personally involved. Won't you please help us help the horses and stop the abuse? Please?
"Miami County Ponies", "Miami County Pony", "Miami County Pony Rescue", "Miami County Rescue Pony", and "Miami County Rescue Ponies", are copyrighted (© 1998) terms and service marks (SM) of IGHA/HorseAid, All Rights Reserved.
Pennington Paso Fino Abuse Case
Garry Pennington's and the City fathers of
Chanute, KS's, idea of a "well kept horse"
City of Chanute Animal Control Ofc. Bill Penner contacted HorseAid KS/MO in 1998 (and again in 1999), about a herd of Paso Finos belonging to Garry W. Pennington that appeared to be in "very poor condition". In the 1998 complaint, our HorseAid Chapter Coordinator, Wanda Cain, inspected the horses and found them being housed in deplorable conditions and all under weight as well as being fed with hay of unknown composition.
Ms. Cain then sent a letter to Mr. Pennington offering help in educating him in the proper care of his horses, and/or "hands on" help if he needed it. Ofc. Penner sent Mr. Pennington a letter (page 1 & page 2) stating exactly what steps had to be taken to bring his horses and dogs up to acceptable animal keeping standards. Mr. Pennington never responded to Ms. Cain's HorseAid letter, and per Ofc. Penner's letter to HorseAid, assumed the situation would be resolved successfully by the City of Chanute Animal Control.
In the 1999 complaint, Ofc. Penner again contacted HorseAid (KS/MO Chapter Coordinator Becky Burns), and related that he had just examined Mr. Pennington's Paso Finos again, and they were in much poorer condition than they had been in 1998.
Since the place that Mr. Pennington kept his 12 Paso Finos was in plain view and accessible via public right of way, Ofc. Penner requested that Ms. Burns accompany him on a return visit the next day. Ms. Burns was instructed by HorseAid HQ's to take photographs and video tape, which she did. She, as had Ms. Cain previously, observed that all of Mr. Pennington's horses were dangerously under weight, several had fairly severe untreated injuries, and the area they were being corralled at was not suitable (and in fact dangerous) for the keeping of horses.
Ofc. Penner filed a criminal animal cruelty complaint, and contacted Mr. Pennington and the County Attorney detailing the poor conditions the 12 Paso Finos were being kept in.
HorseAid, in trying to resolve the matter as quickly as possible (there were several pregnant mares about ready to foal in the herd) soon discovered that the City of Chanute was stalling us due to threats of legal action against the City by owner Garry Pennington and his attorney because of the City's actions to obtain relief for the 12 horses.
Finally, in July 1999, the City of Chanute acted on HorseAid's recommendations (accompanied by videotape and photographic evidence) and seized the entire Paso Fino herd.
After confiscating the 12 Paso Finos, the City of Chanute released them into the custody and control of HorseAid, complying with a court order instructing them to do so (CASE NO 99CR - State of Kansas VS. Garry W. Pennington*).
Later, largely due to continued threats of a lawsuit by Mr. Pennington against the City, the City of Chanute decided not to prosecute Garry W. Pennington on the various animal cruelty statutes he had been charged with.
Mr. Pennington's friend and hunting buddy, the editor of The Chanute Tribune, began publishing "anti-HorseAid" editorials in his paper almost daily. What he failed to publish — was any pictures of the horses, even though the paper had dispatched their own photographer who was observed taking many photographs of the Paso Finos.
HorseAid and HorseAid volunteers ended up spending many thousands of dollars in vet bills and feed/supplements on behalf of these horses, none of which were ever reimbursed by the City of Chanute or Mr. Pennington.
When the Pasos came to us (under court order), most of them were several hundred pounds underweight, and some had leg injuries. One of our HorseAid volunteer attorneys, Roland Vincent Esq., advised that we refuse to give the horses back under the Kansas lien laws (and also cited the court order as a reason to not relinquish the herd). HorseAid founder Enzo Giobbé discounted that idea as unworkable, and under the prevalent conditions in Chanute, possibly dangerous to the local HorseAid volunteers.
In the end, the Pasos were turned over to the control of the City of Chanute, and eventually, back to Garry Pennington. Garry Pennington later filed a Federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of Chanute that was dismissed as not having merit.
HorseAid now wonders if the City of Chanute still believes it was saving City funds by giving the abused horses back to defendant Pennington once he became plaintiff Pennington?
It's not good to be a horse
in the City of Chanute, Kansas.
Read the Pennington Paso Fino abuse case timeline here.
Read HorseAid's rebuttal to editorials in the Chanute Tribune here.
Read the FAX to the City of Chanute from Animal People Magazine here.
99CR - State of Kansas VS. Garry W. Pennington, filed in the District Court
of Neosho County,
KS, states: "That pursuant to K.S.A. 21-4311, all horses located on
the premises of above said location, are
placed in the custody of Horse Aide".
Volunteer some of your spare time to your local humane organization. Learn what bills or amendments are currently before the legislature or your local governing body and how they affect the future of horses in general and the equine regulations in your area.
While not all of us can afford to support an organization or cause we believe in by financial means, we can all afford to vote! If you don't speak up for these helpless animals, who will? If not now, when?
have the voice ...learn to use it!
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