The data was taken from a national on-line database of reported animal abuse cases. The study tabulated the number of reported cases of equine abuse and neglect and the number of horses involved in those cases over a period starting in January of 2006 and ending in March of 2008. The goal of the study was to quantify the combined impact of slaughter plant closings, the economic downturn and higher grain and hay prices in the past year.
Researchers admit to being surprised by the results. The study found that while there had been some regional increases in the frequency of such cases, there had been other areas of the country where reductions more than offset the increases. The conclusion was that on average the year of 2007 was no worse, and in fact slightly better than 2006.
Joyce Jacobson, the researcher who first proposed the study, said: "The results were so surprising that we completely repeated the data search to assure it was accurate. Then we waited for several months after the last tabulated month to assure all the data was in."
Asked to explain the unexpected results, John Holland, senior analyst for AAHS (Americans Against Horse Slaughter) said: "A significant number of media stories had assured us that abuse and neglect had increased dramatically following the closing of the Texas horse slaughter plants in February of 2007 and the Illinois plant in September. What we see is that this clearly never happened."
Holland went on to say that the number of equine rescues nationwide has increased dramatically in recent years. "It appears," he concluded, "that the rescues were able to take in the horses pushed out of their homes by these adverse economic conditions."
Steve Rei, President of the National Equine Rescue Coalition said that a poll taken of the organization's member rescues earlier in the year found that about 60% were at financial capacity; while very few were at space capacity. Rei went on to say it was clear that with more financial help the rescues could handle even more horses.
Animal Law Coalition works to stop animal cruelty and suffering through legislation, administrative agency action, and litigation. ALC offers legal analysis of the difficult and controversial issues relating to animals.