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April 23, 2010

Addressing Horse Welfare in Michigan

Coalition formed as long-term resource on horse care

The Humane Society of the United States

by Julie Hauserman

With the highest unemployment rate in America, Michigan has an explosion of families in need. And when families face economic crisis, so do their animals.

Horses rank among the most expensive of companion animals, so it is no surprise that horse rescue groups have increasingly been stepping up the plate to assist horse owners facing financial difficulties.

In Michigan, horses and their owners have found a new ally in a group comprised of committed horse lovers, breed groups, law enforcement agencies and The Humane Society of the United States. The newly formed Michigan Horse Welfare Coalition  is providing education, adoption referrals, and even free hay to those in need.

“We’re there to assist with short-term needs, but we don’t want to just be a Band-Aid.” says HSUS Michigan State Director Jill Fritz, who is helping facilitate the coalition. “We want to be a long-term resource where people can really get information about horse care and can get an idea of how much time and money it really takes to care for a horse.”

The group formed a “Hay Bank,” a network of people who agree to donate hay to people who can no longer afford it. They are busy compiling a database of available Michigan horse rescue groups, sanctuaries, and services, and they serve as a clearinghouse, working quickly to share information when someone sees horses in need.

The coalition is also developing relationships with veterinarians and horse care providers in the hope of offering free or low-cost services.

Jennifer Lee runs Horse North, an adoption, placement, and rescue organization outside Traverse City. She said a nearby horse neglect case – where a horse actually starved to death before rescuers knew about it – pushed her to suggest the new Horse Welfare Coalition.

“We’ve seen too many animals sold to people who have no clue about what it takes to care for a horse, and the animals end up suffering,” Lee said.

Lee and others in the coalition say part of their job is to help busy law enforcement authorities and animal control officers deal with identifying and prosecuting horse abuse cases, as well as lining up places for horses to go once they are rescued.

Funding for the coalition’s programs and services are gathered from caring citizens who donate resources so that horse owners facing financial hardship can care for their horses until a more permanent solution is found.

Although coalition members have differing views on many horse issues, they’ve agreed to put those differences aside to focus on horse welfare in general.

“One of the really great things is to see how we’ve all come together for this common cause – helping out horses in need,” said Fritz said. 
 

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