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Journal and Courier, Andrew Hancock/AP

Financial Crisis Affects Horses, Other Pets

October 30, 2008 07:28 AM
by Isabel Cowles
Abandoned horses and other pets are flooding animal shelters as more and more owners cannot afford to support them.

Shelters Overwhelmed

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In the last four weeks, British equine shelter The Horse Trust has been flooded with four times the usual number of requests for horse adoptions—nearly 500 owners have approached the organization, hoping to relinquish their horses.

The Horse Trust houses retired horses and has accommodated unwanted animals in the past. But the trust has already reached its capacity of 100 horses and cannot accommodate the record number of requests.

"I fear we are going to see horses being dumped. We have never had this many people ringing up before and owners just do not know what to do. We have become a bit of a counseling service. It is heartwrenching,” said Susan Lewis, the trust’s marketing manager, in an interview with The Daily Telegraph.

In some cases, euthanasia may be the only option for people unable to financially support their horses. "Horses are the most expensive animal you can keep, most people spend between pounds 3,000 and pounds 5,000 a year on care and welfare," Lewis explained. "If you are in a tough financial situation then you simply cannot afford to keep one."
Horse shelters in the United States have also been overwhelmed with requests due to the current financial crisis. Earlier this month, 37 emaciated horses were taken to the Humane Society of Ventura County's Ojai Shelter when their owners were unable to properly care for them.

Shelter Director Jolene Hoffman anticipates that it will cost more than $100,000 to rehabilitate the horses and because many people are suffering financially, the Humane Society does not expect that people will adopt them soon. In the United States, equine upkeep typically costs several hundred dollars a month.

Many shelters are already full or underfunded, making euthanasia the only option. But euthanizing and disposing of horses is also a big expense: according to authorities, the process can cost between $300 and $800.

Horses are not the only animals suddenly overwhelming shelters. Financial difficulties are forcing pet owners nationwide to abandon cats, dogs and other domestic pets. Many people facing foreclosures are being forced to move out of pet-friendly residences into places where they cannot keep their animals.

Tracy Riland, a shelter technician, explained to the Press of Atlantic City that people "have to give that animal up in the middle of an emotional issue. To be that upset through the turmoil of losing your home and have to accept that you can't keep that animal? It's sad."

Related Topic: Disposing of horses

U.S. shelters have been inundated with unwanted horses since the country’s last horse-killing facilities closed in March. In the past, horse farms sent injured or retired horses to slaughterhouses, which then sent the meat overseas. But animal rights activists rallied against the practice, causing courts to rule selling horse meat illegal, USA Today reported. Now individual horse owners must keep older horses, pay for their euthanasia or send the horses to shelters.
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