Horse welfare in US remains under pressure – report

Graphic: Equine Welfare Alliance
Graphic: Equine Welfare Alliance

Equine welfare in the US remains under serious pressure, but there are early signs of a turnaround, a new report says.

The Equine Welfare Alliance , with the help of the Animal Law Coalition, has released the first Annual Equine Welfare Report. The report contains statistics and records obtained from federal and state agencies as well as breed registries.

Ongoing falls in foal registrations across major breeds in the US continue to mark the parlous state of the nation’s horse industry

“The findings are grim for the horse industry,” alliance president John Holland said.

“We found that the decline in new registrations which began in 2005 continued into 2013, with some breeds reporting registrations down as much as 75 percent.”

The report details the price of hay in every state over the past decade, with increases in many states of more than 100 percent, and some showing increases as much as 220 percent.

Worst hit were the western and southwestern states, which were plagued by persistent drought.

graphic-foals-ewaHowever, the report offered a glimmer of hope in recent increases in the amount of land allocated to hay production following the removal of corn ethanol subsidies that Congress ended in 2011. This marks the first upturn in more than a decade.

The report also found that the export of horses to slaughter declined in 2013, down from an almost two-decade high in 2012.

An earlier study by the alliance found that the price of hay was the dominant factor in determining the likely rate of neglect, with the rate of unemployment coming in a distant second.

The report also contained a detailed record of legal and legislative battles that have raged over the past few years, especially as concerns horse slaughter.

“Slaughter in the US is now illegal again thanks to the tireless efforts of Americans who care about horse welfare,”  Animal Law Coalition president Laura Allen said. “But the effort continues to ban the export of horses for slaughter in other countries.”

The report also provided an update in the abuse and neglect rates in the five states where records are kept at state level.

Only Colorado showed an increased rate of neglect, but it was the only state that reports such data within the drought-plagued regions.

Holland explained: “When the price of hay increases dramatically, you can be sure that the neglect rate will follow the same trajectory.”

Holland and Allen, who prepared the report, said in its executive summary that signs of improvement in the overall environment in 2013  included reduced neglect rates, increased hay production and declining slaughter. “However, it must be stated that these trends are tentative and at best nascent in nature.”


The full report can be read here

2 thoughts on “Horse welfare in US remains under pressure – report

  • July 17, 2014 at 5:14 am

    Good to see on the decine, we may live to see the end of over-breeding horses in the US and their exportation for slaughter.

    Horses are one of our icons, a symbol of our freedom, they should be held in high regard, they have served along with us in establishing our country and served and died in our wars, they’ve carried our great generals, yet many choose to look upon them as only a commodity.


    Please call your reps and senators for their support of the S.A.F.E. Act HR 1094/S. 541.

  • July 18, 2014 at 9:27 am

    As to your statement about the cost of hay:I live in Northern California, and one of the biggest issues we are facing in the welfare of equines is the exportation of our hay to Asia. Japanese and Chinese buyers are coming in and pre-paying farmers for an entire year’s yield of hay, thus driving up the price of hay so much that since 2010 the price of hay has doubled. For horse boarding facilities, if you don’t have an established “connection” with a hay distributor, you may be seriously out of luck to feed the horses at your facility.


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