Please bear with me, as this post will be long.
Recently, SAFE was contacted by Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson to request assistance with several horses that have been seized or surrendered to their Animal Control agency that they have been unable to place into homes. Over the past several years, PCAC has taken several steps to try to alleviate the “horse problem” in their county through several open summits. They put out an RFP for agencies and individuals to help them in providing temporary foster homes for horses that they took in. They now have several contracts with local farms for temporary placement, and that part of their program has worked fairly well. However, where their programs have fallen short is in finding a long-term solution for these horses, once they have been surrendered to the county and can be released for adoption. They have tried, with limited success, to find homes for these horses themselves, and have even worked with rescue agencies to help them do site checks and screen potential applicants. But it was not enough, and the the number of horses in their care continued to rise. It is important to understand that unlike King County, Pierce County does not operate a small animal shelter. They contract with the Humane Society for that service, and pay a flat fee per animal that the Humane Society takes in for them to provide vaccinations, spay/neuter, etc. Their expertise is in animal control and there was no budget to care for all these horses nor experience in providing adoption services. In desperation, last summer the county ran two horses from the Eatonville case (where Zanadu, Calamity, and Nadia came from) through the Enumclaw Sales Pavilion, with disastrous results — both ended up in the kill pen slated for slaughter. Both horses were rescued, with the county even paying the $300 “bail” to re-rescue Nadia on the condition that SAFE take her. We did, and she was later put into training and then adopted into a home. There was a lot of public outcry towards the county for this, and they have learned from their mistake and will no longer run horses through the sale. But that still leaves the county with a significant dilemma, what to do with all these horses?
Our mission, first and foremost, has always been to help Animal Control agencies. The reasons for doing so are twofold: 1) By the time a horse has reached a point of neglect that requires seizure, they are usually at the end of the line in terms of options for rescue and 2) Most counties in Washington state do NOT have any plan, facility or budget to deal with seized/surrendered horses. As a result, they often avoid taking action with horses until it is far too late, or take horses only to run them through public auction as soon as the mandatory hold period has passed. The problem SAFE has is primarily one of space — we always operate at full capacity, and occasionally can make room for one or two animals, but do not have the capacity to take a large quantity of horses at once. Nor do we have the budget to support them, when you consider that the average cost to get a horse to an adoptable state, meaning all routine care is provided, horse is at a good weight and health, stallions are gelded, and not including any training, is well over $1000 per horse. We have an existing partnership with King and Skagit counties to take horses on an occasional basis for them, when space allows.
Through a new partnership with PCAC, we will begin taking some of their horses, and also advertising others for adoption through our channels. However, those that are not placed into homes or with SAFE will be euthanized by a veterinarian 20 days following the date when they can officially be released for adoption. This plan is agreed to and supported by SAFE — and it is important to understand that our mission is to rescue horses from abuse, neglect, slaughter — but NOT humane euthanasia. While we certainly don’t like to see healthy horses be euthanized, we are well aware that there are more horses in need of help that we, or any adoption agency, can support, and if we cannot physically take the horse in, nor are we able to find a home for the horse in that time frame, then euthanasia is a reasonable, albeit unpleasant, option.
Last Friday I introduced to you Savannah, one of the PCAC horses in need of a home. There are currently 19 horses, minis, and donkeys in PCAC care, 6 of which have been released for adoption. We will be taking a few of these horses, but do not have room for all 6, and there will be more available in the coming weeks. The response to that single post on our Facebook page was extraordinary — it was shared 85 times, and I received nearly a dozen inquires from people who wanted to take her. This cemented in a fact that we have known for a while, which is that when the threat of death looms for an animal, people will make extraordinary efforts to “save” the animal. Sometimes, these situations work out fine, and sometimes they end in disastrous results, because that person was acting more on emotion than thinking through all the possible “what ifs” (such as what if the horse is lame, requires expensive vet care, is untrained, dangerous, pregnant, unridable, etc.). Perhaps they are thinking that they will rehabilitate the horse and rehome it into a new home, assuming that could easily be done in a couple of months, not realizing that in this market, it could be years before the horse could be rehomed.
SAFE has many years of experience in taking on neglected horses with unknown history and issues, rehabilitating them, training them, and adopting them out into qualified homes. We continue to keep track of them once they are adopted and provide a SAFEty net to ensure that they never fall into a bad situation again. We invest thousands of dollars in each horse that comes through our program, and many horses are with us for months, even years, before a home is found, or pass on or are euthanized in our care. It is a huge committment to take on a neglected horse with unknown history, it is definitely not a decision to be made lightly, by someone that is relatively inexperieced with horses, or by someone without significant financial resources as well as time at their disposal.
For the horses that we list for PCAC, SAFE is only acting as a referral service for Pierce County. SAFE will be the initial point of contact and pre-screen applications, which will then be forwarded on to PCAC. Actual adoption decisions will be made by PCAC and an Adoption Application, site check, and Adoption Agreement are required. The only information that we have on these horses is what we post. All of these horses will require farrier, vaccinations, dental care, worming, and may not be trained or have soundness or health issues. All mares carry the possibility of being bred. They have seen a vet at intake only to ensure that they do not require any immediate care to stabilize them. We want to help these horses find homes, but we also want to ensure that those horses are rehomed responsibily, because the worst thing that could happen is for the horse to go from one neglect situation to another.
We will be listing more horses in the coming weeks and months. We are also actively looking for more foster homes (primarily in Snohomish and King counties), which will enable SAFE to physically take these horses on, provide assessments, vet care, and training and then responsibly place them into homes. Foster homes are one of our most valuable resources, and it allows someone help a horse in need in a tangible way, without the responsibility and financial liability of ownership. Or, consider adopting a horse from SAFE, which would also allow us to help more of the PCAC horses. Why take the risk of taking on a horse with unknown health, soundness and history when you can adopt a horse from SAFE, where all routine care has been provided, assessments and training already done and all information disclosed, and we will work with you to find a horse that will be a good match for your family, skillsets and goals?
If you are interested in fostering for SAFE, have plenty of horse experience, shelter, safe fencing, a winter mud management plan in place, and can commit to at least a 3 month fostering duration (preferably longer), please complete an online adoption application here. Please note that in most cases we cannot handle requests to foster specific horses and in most cases you would not be fostering one of the PCAC horses initially but rather a horse that is already been through our intake and assessment process.
And now allow me to introduce you to the four horses in need of homes. We have already committed to taking two of the six horses. With additional adoptions or foster homes, we may be able to take more. However, these horses have until October 15th to find a home, or they will be humanely euthanized by a vet. While I have received many inquiries on Savannah, the mare I posted on Friday, I have yet to recieve any applications. If you are seriously interested in adopting one of the four horses below, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you on the PCAC Adoption Application and put you in touch with our resource at Pierce County.
SAVANNAH — Black/white paint/pinto mare. Age, height, training unknown. Abandoned on a property in early August. Body condition score: 6/9
MISTY — 4 year old Appaloosa filly. Height, training unknown. Seized due to neglect in June 2011. Needs work — has been known to kick. Has been wormed and lice dusted. Body condition score: 4/9
MOONSHINE — 2 year old black/white (may be going gray) pinto Arab? X colt. Has 1in. umbilical hernia that may require surgical repair. Needs to be gelded. Has been wormed and lice dusted. Body condition score: 3/9
ROSE — 20 year old chestnut QH mare. Height, training unknown. Has injury of unknown origins to right rear leg (was duct-taped upon rescue). Abandoned on same property as Savannah. Body condition score: 4.5/9
Thank you for taking the time to read this and please feel free to email me at email@example.com if you have any questions or concerns.