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January 13, 2010

Answering the Call for Homeless Horses

HSVMA-RAVS offers care to homeless horses at rescues and sanctuaries

Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association

  • These students are getting valuable veterinary training, as well as exposure to the plight of homeless horses. HSVMA

by Dr. Eric Davis, DVM

It isn't news anymore—the economic downturn always falls hardest on the most vulnerable. It's not just dogs and cats left behind in foreclosed homes or dropped off at shelters when their guardians lose their jobs. Horses, too, are being abandoned when the people who cared for them can no longer cope with the expense required to keep these large and beautiful creatures.

Across the country, equine sanctuaries and rescue groups have sprung up to provide foster care for horses that have nowhere else to go. But providing food, housing and daily care for an animal as large and long lived as a horse can be a daunting task.

HSVMA-RAVS already has a long and established history of providing care for horses in need. From herds on the Indian reservations of the Great Plains to pack horses in the jungles of Guatemala, our program has treated thousands of horses, mules and donkeys over the years. It was a natural extension to expand our efforts to equine rescues and sanctuaries.

The request was simple: help a struggling rescue group by providing free veterinary care for the abandoned, homeless, and abused horses they were sheltering.

When the call came in from ReHorse Rescue, an equine rescue in the Sierra Nevada Foothills, our team was eager to help. The staff at the rescue had built pastures and stalls to house some 40 homeless horses—a varied population of donkeys, miniature horses with deformed legs and teeth, and old horses that were "no longer useful", according to their previous owners. Many of the horses at the sanctuary, who had come from all over northern California, were abused or malnourished when ReHorse Rescue had picked them up.

They all were receiving excellent and personalized care, but were in dire need of our free veterinary services. With two eager veterinary students from the University of California, Davis, we set to work early. Under our team's direction, the students got some great experience and training in anesthesia, surgery, dental examination, and general horse handling. But in addition to honing their veterinary skills, these students received real first-hand exposure to the plight of homeless horses, which need care, housing and above all, love.

Getting through all of the procedures took most of the day, and would have cost thousands of dollars, had HSVMA-RAVS not been there. A few weeks later, the staff at the rescue sent me an email to say that all the patients were doing well and that she would be spreading the word about our services to her friends at other rescues.

Ultimately, I know it's going to be a challenge—finding homes and caring for all the homeless horses out there. But with the help of all those who care about animal protection and welfare, great things can and will be accomplished.


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