Welfare in the News: Only YOU can (help) Prevent Equine Abuse

In my work, I focus on the transactional aspect of equine law, such as boarding, sale, and shipping contracts/ agreements, labor and immigration law of equine competitors or grooms, land zoning and use for agriculture, and other aspects involved with the financial, business, and liability prevention of the horse world, or civil litigation for when contracts fail (or were never written).

Basically, I participate in almost every area involving horses!
However, I don't pursue suits based on equine welfare.  The reason is two-fold: 1) the prosecution of people who violate equine welfare is criminal law (and I am in civil) and 2) there are a number of animal rights groups, welfare watch groups, pro bono and non-profit organizations, etc. that do rescue abused horses and prosecute violators of welfare laws.

Photo Source: an intriguing new to me photographer, Michael Friberg


However, it should go without saying that even though I don't practice in welfare, I still care deeply for the well-being of horses. 

Los Angeles, CA is a city of extreme wealth (hello Hollywood), but also of extreme deprivation (contributing to the outrageous gang life).  Nevertheless, I am still shocked to disbelief at the horrible suffering of horses in the city.  Click here to read an article on a particular equine abuse case in LA (caution: graphic photo).

That article, and various other recent welfare news stories and blog topics have prompted me to point out some of my opinions on equine welfare issues.

Number One: I believe equine welfare is the responsibility of every horse owner.  If you have a pampered $100K horse in a show barn, you aren't relieved from being aware of welfare issues, and you should not turn a blind eye to the overpopulation problem in the U.S.  If you see abuse, report it.  If you think a horse isn't going to the right home, prevent it. (And don't forget abuse comes in many forms: while malnourishment is frequently in the news, it is also abuse to subject horses to cruel and unlawful training techniques.)

Number Two: I commend inventive and progressive rescue and rehabilitative programs.  I really love the programs where prison inmates are asked to care for and rehabilitate a horse; I think that is such a win-win situation.  Read this recent article on a newly opened equine program at a women's facility, here.

Number Three: I believe it is necessary to have laws on the state books that punish animal abusers, and also laws that provide for enforcement of those laws.  (See here for Nevada's recently passed "Cooney Law" that elevates animal abuse from a misdemeanor to a felony.  Scroll down until you see a picture of "Cooney" the dog.)

Number Four: be open minded.  Some people think rounding up wild mustangs is in the mustangs' best interest, and some think wild mustangs shouldn't ever be touched.  Some think that allowing horses to pull carriages is abuse, and others think that without a job, you are signing a horse's death warrant.  Celebrate the common ground: you both have horses' best interests at heart.  I am always so disappointed to see the dissension, rancor, and aggressiveness between horse people who really all just love and want the best for horses.  Find ways to share your points of view and move forward towards a solution, rather than get stuck debating the problem.

As I always say when it comes to anything with horses: prevention is key.  I'd rather prevent a horse from being abused than rescuing and rehabilitating it later.
 Sometimes horse abuse is not intentional, it just arises from a lack of knowledge and education. 
Everyone needs to know what training techniques are safe and acceptable, and which are not.  
Everyone needs to know where to take a horse, or the resources available, when one can no longer can afford clean and sufficient roughage and nutrition.

What do you think of my points of view in Numbers 1-4?
Do you think creating criminal laws is the best prevention, or through education and resources? (And if you think education and resources, do you think the government or non-profits/ individuals could serve that need?)