An animal shelter in Michigan has spoken of the growing impact of drought, tough times and the soaring price of hay on horses.
The Humane Society of Huron Valley says horse abuse cases have been on the rise and even well-intentioned owners are now struggling to care for their horses because of increasing costs.
The society, which runs an animal shelter in Ann Arbor, in Washtenaw County, said the drought, hard economic times, and irresponsible ownership had created a dire situation for many local horses.
Horses, it said, have always been expensive to own, but it began to receive a greater number of complaints when the economy was on the decline.
This year, however, hay prices are an estimated five times higher than 10 years ago and the price continues to rise because of dry conditions. The winter will only be worse, the charity says, as livestock owners dip into feed reserves set aside for the cooler months.
“Horse cruelty is certainly not new,” said Matt Schaecher, the society’s director of animal cruelty investigation and rescue.
“But the number of investigations related to neglect and abuse of horses and other farm animals has been on the rise since 2011. It’s important that we do everything we can to help animals in immediate need and to assist struggling owners who will need help getting through the winter.”
Horse rescues and organizations it has relied on in the past during cruelty investigations, are now filled passed capacity.
It now finds itself in the position of having to house and care for abuse cases and offering help to desperate people needing help to feed their horses, so they don’t become abuse cases.
The society’s executive director, Tanya Hilgendorf, said: “It is our mission to ensure the responsible care of animals and to stop animal cruelty.
“The situation with horses and other farm animals poses an extra challenge because of the large extra expenses in housing and care, especially in cruelty cases where the animals are already sick, injured and malnourished.
“We really need the animal loving community to help us meet this new demand.”
It is currently trying to rehome three horses – a 12-yearold Arabian-Standardbred mare named Sugar Cube, an 11-year-old quarter horse mare named Queenie, and a 10-year-old thoroughbred named Turner.
They were confiscated in mid-July from two owners. Queenie and Sugar have largely recovered, but Turner still needs to put on weight.
Further evidence of the growing desperation of livestock owners comes from New Mexico, where the sheriff of Guadalupe County reports the theft of grass.
Sheriff Michael Lucero says he believes the drought and rising hay prices have resulted in some ranchers in New Mexico cutting fences or leaving gates open so their cattle can graze on greener pastures.
He told local media of five instances in recent weeks.
Authorities in other drought-stricken states have reported similar incidents.
Ranchers in the western states have been downsizing herds to cope with the worst drought in decades.
More information about the three horses for adoption can be found at HSHV.org, or call (734) 662-5585 with questions.
Those wanting to help can donate to the help us now by making a designated donation to the HSHV Farm Animal Aid Fund. Those who donate by October 15, your gift will be doubled through a generous matching gift. Animal lover and HSHV Board member, Susan Kornfield, will match donations up to $US5000.