On behalf of SAFE and its Board of Directors, I would like to express my admiration and appreciation to Pierce County Animal Control for their recent work in seizing 39 horses in Graham, WA. While I am not privy to all of the details in this case, it is my understanding that the horses in this case were seized primarily due to the inhumane conditions in which they were living; i.e., shut into stalls filled with inadequate light or ventilation. SAFE has assisted with many Animal Control cruelty cases in its 8 year history, and all of those cases have involved starvation. It is a commonly held belief, in fact, that Animal Control agencies will only take action in cases where horses are at risk of death due to starvation, or when some degree of physical abuse is taking place. Therefore, we would like to commend Pierce County Animal Control for taking action in a situation in which inhumane living conditions were the primary concern in the safety and well being of the animal involved. We also appreciate the fact that Pierce County was willing to take on the removal of such an overwhelmingly large number of horses; this was a tremendous undertaking that appears to have been handed with a great deal of urgency and compassion.

The horses in this situation may have had enough to eat, but there is no question in my mind that the horses trapped in the conditions found at the Graham site were being grossly and cruelly neglected. Truly there are many ways to abuse a horse. And truly horses are not the easiest animals to care for, which is why horses are not for everyone. If you cannot provide a horse with all of the things it needs to survive, you have no business owning one. The problem that we see on a disturbingly regular basis is that some people who have no business owning a horse tend to own ten of them, or twenty…or more. And we ask ourselves, how does anyone reasonably expect to be able to care for so many horses? Feeding them is just one facet of the care they require. You also have to deal with the 50 pounds of manure that each horse produces every day — because just letting them stand in their own filth is not an option (thank you Pierce County Animal Control!) But it doesn’t stop there. Horses may be domesticated creatures, but by nature they are prey animals who rely on instinct to survive. A horse that doesn’t receive regular and proper handling from its human caretakers can quickly become a dangerous beast in a very large body. It’s not a crime to leave a horse untrained and unhandled, but sometimes I think it should be, because as far I am concerned, it’s a form of neglectful abuse that puts a horse at risk of a bad life. So if you don’t have the time, money, or strength to train and handle seventeen horses, then you should not have seventeen horses. Most people I know will wisely limit themselves to owning one or two. And those people typically work their fingers and their paychecks to the bone to care for them.

So once again, thank you Pierce County for taking a stand against inhumane living conditions and people who have more horses than they can reasonable care for. We hope that your action sends a message that this kind of abuse and neglect will not be tolerated.

Bonnie Hammond
Executive Director
SAFE | Save a Forgotten Equine