Fall 2012 Magazine

Equine Protection Fund: New Mexico's Statewide Safety Net for Horses, Donkeys, and Mules

By Phil Carter

In 2007, Animal Protection of New Mexico's (APNM) Cruelty Case Manager started noticing a trend. Tasked with operating the state animal cruelty hotline, she was observing a spike in calls reporting abused and neglected horses. Where calls regarding equines were in previous years averaging 1 in 6, the ratio had risen to 1 in 3.

Extreme abuse and abandonment of horses began to hit the media. The mare Grace, found emaciated in the Valencia County desert by a hiker, had been abandoned with a fly mask obstructing her vision. Another mare, Miracle, was found near Las Cruces with bullet wounds from a botched euthanasia. Grace and Miracle spent their final days in the compassionate care of horse shelters. But the mustang Angel slowly starved to death in Doņa Ana County, even as neighbors worked for weeks to intervene and provide help. There were seemingly countless reports like these and very few outlets for help.

Further investigation by APNM pointed to a looming crisis for New Mexico's equines, with drought, hay prices, and declining national economy severely impacting the ability of individuals to keep the state's 147,000 horses. A survey of the state's equine rescue facilities turned up capacity for only 250 equines. However, APNM's research also turned up a number of nascent programs in other states to assist needy horses and their families, with the potential to adapt the efforts to New Mexico.

In Fall 2009, APNM, in partnership with the charitable New Mexico Community Foundation, formed the New Mexico Equine Protection Fund, the first statewide effort to address equine suffering through strategic assistance and disbursements.

Emergency Feed Assistance
The Emergency Feed Assistance program is the Equine Protection Fund's longest and most prominent effort to date. Available to individuals and families, the program provides temporary subsidies for equine feed (hay, grain, etc.) for up to four equines for up to two months, under certain qualifications (visit www.HelpOurHorses.org to download an application).

Developed as a proactive measure against equine suffering, Emergency Feed Assistance operates under the belief that an individual's temporary loss of income-including job loss, medical emergency, foreclosure, etc.-should not result in neglect, starvation, or displacement of a horse. By providing a small subsidy for feed, the program is helping to keep horses in loving homes, preventing psychological trauma to horses faced with abrupt adoption or relinquishment, and preserving the financial, temporal, and emotional investments that families have placed into their equines.

Emergency Feed Assistance also works to addresses larger issues facing the equine community. Availability of feed support reduces the burden on the state's equine rescue shelters by preventing needless intake of horses and also may help investigations by the state's animal cruelty authorities, including the New Mexico Livestock Board, allowing these facilities and agencies to better prioritize extreme cases. And, for local feed stores, direct payments by the program ensure patronage that would otherwise be unavailable.

As of this writing, 187 equines among 63 families have been assisted by this program. Average feed costs to date have been $99.02 per equine per month.

Veterinary Care Support
The Equine Protection Fund offers a variety of assistance programs for equine veterinary care, including gelding assistance and humane euthanasia subsidies. These programs are available to private individuals, veterinarians, law enforcement, and equine rescue shelters.

The Trail's End program provides funding for emergency euthanasia and disposal of equines under certain qualifications and the direct coordination of a licensed veterinarian. This relief prevents psychological trauma to horses by removing the incentive for sale into the equine slaughter network and allowing them to pass away with peace and dignity at their homes. Additionally, with high hay prices forcing many to stretch feed budgets, disposition of elderly or ailing horses allows renewed focus and attention on healthy horses.

Gelding Assistance provides subsidies for sterilization of colts and stallions to individuals with financial need as well as organizations working for equine welfare.

Law enforcement officials responding to equine cruelty can access both of the above programs and can also apply for financial help with any veterinary issue via the Veterinary Services Agreement. Agencies at the state, county, tribal, and municipal levels have utilized this assistance, encouraging more direct local involvement in animal cruelty investigations.

Across the state, 52 equines have been assisted or been given relief from the Equine Fund's veterinary care programs. In the long term, these assistance programs help to remove financial barriers among many communities working for equine welfare statewide. With the knowledge of reimbursement available, veterinarians have increased financial security while working at the front lines of animal welfare in local communities. Rescue shelters utilize these opportunities to help relieve financial burden on their organizations during a time of high intake volume and expensive feed.

The Equine Protection Fund's programs are solely funded through foundation grants and individual donations, over 95% of which go directly to assistance for horses, donkeys, and mules. Please consider helping this vital effort grow and expand services by donating to the Equine Fund c/o the New Mexico Community Foundation. For more information on all fund efforts, please visit www.HelpOurHorses.org.

Phil Carter is the Equine Campaign Manager for Animal Protection of New Mexico and Coordinator for the Equine Protection Fund. He grew up on a farm raising Arabian horses.

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