The Horse

OCT 2018

The Horse:Your Guide To Equine Health Care provides monthly equine health care information to horse owners, breeders, veterinarians, barn/farm managers, trainer/riding instructors, and others involved in the hands-on care of the horse.

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30 October 2018 The Horse | TheHorse.com horses. Maybe the farrier used to come on a six-to-eight-week schedule, then it's once every six months, and now he's not com- ing at all, because they're getting so many animals they can't manage them. "Some of those things in and of them- selves aren't a problem," she adds. "It's an additive thing. Over time (the horses) don't get enough food or care." Collectively, these stressors and others—such as lack of opportunities for socialization (in the case of a single neglected horse or many horses housed separately), inability to avoid threaten- ing animals, uncomfortable or confined living conditions—can pose significant welfare issues for the horses involved. More recognizable signs of animal hoarding, says Schroeder, include owners becoming very defensive when questioned by others, lacking insight about the prob- lem, and becoming socially isolated. "They tend to cut you off, they don't want you to see their place," Williams adds. "They don't want you coming out to visit because it's going to be so obvious the animals are not being taken care of, or there may be dead animals or feces piled everywhere. They tend to cut even close friends or family off, because I think at some level they know it isn't right to have starving and dead animals through- out their property." Wilson says hoarders might also pose as "rescuers" at horse auction kill pens. "These individuals are so distraught that they buy more of these animals for meat price than they should," she says. What Can You Do? If you suspect a hoarding situation, there are right and wrong ways to address it. Williams says the only scenario she sug- gests getting involved with directly is if the person is a close friend or family member. "They're probably going to deny it, get mad at you, shut you off," she says. "But if there's really a link between it and other mental illnesses, they can get help." Otherwise, for the horses' safety as well as your own, you should get the proper authorities involved. "The first steps should be contacting law enforcement and a humane agent," says Wilson. "Entering a property without a search warrant can totally blow an investigation, which means the owner cannot be successfully prosecuted." Depending on the severity of the situa- tion, authorities might take one of several steps. "They might start with education to try to get the person to better care for their animals and reduce numbers on their own," Williams says. "If that's not success- ful, they might have to seize the animals. If there are already dead animals or animals at the brink of death, they'll seize first and educate later. The bad thing with hoarding, especially if it's a mental illness, is they get their animals seized but don't get help to avoid this happening again." In fact, according to the HARC, if hoarders don't get appropriate treat- ment for their disorder, their tendency to relapse is almost 100%. "Currently there is relatively little research on what types of mental health treatments might work best for people who hoard animals," Schroeder says. "What we do know so far is that it is important to provide each person with a team of community professionals (e.g., law enforcement, public health, animal welfare, and mental health profession- als), who can support them. Hoarding is such a socially isolating experience, it is important that people be met with empa- thy during this process so they can get the treatment they need." "Hopefully, as a horse industry and animal welfare community we can work on changing this, to where people can get help, too, so they don't keep perpetuating the problem," adds Williams. Take-Home Message Most people who acquire or rescue horses start out with good intentions. And the many reputable equine rescues out there are doing great things for horses in need. It's when the number of animals add up and the quality of care plummets that things can take a turn for the worse. "I think we all need to remember that true hoarding is a mental illness, and that while we may worry about and decide what happens to the animals, it's not something these people do on purpose," says Williams. "I think a lot of people ei- ther don't understand or forget that. And you do forget that when you're standing there holding a horse that you are going to lose because he's so far gone. Everyone in that case is the victim." h GOOD INTENTIONS GONE WRONG Behind the Guise of a Rescue Sometimes hoarders masquerade as rescue operators; others start out with the intent to form a rescue, and their activities devolve into a welfare situation. With the former, says Katy Schroeder, MS, PhD, an assistant professor in companion ani- mal science and the director of the Equine-Assisted Counseling and Wellness Research Lab at Texas Tech University, look for clear signs that the "rescue" is not all it's cracked up to be. "Signs that it might be a hoarding situation include the continual intake of new horses and an unwillingness to place these horses in new homes, such that there is less and less room and the standard of care declines," she says. "Also, a legitimate rescue organization will usually apply for nonprofit status and have an appropriate number of volunteer or paid staff to help care for the horses." Jennifer Williams, MS, PhD, president of Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society, in College Station, Texas, has seen this all too frequently. "It's often the thing thrown out when law en- forcement gets involved," she says. "'Oh, I'm a rescue, my horses are supposed to be skinny.'" She's also seen rescues start out doing right by the animals and over time fall apart. "The animals, in that case, suffer," she says. "Many people don't recognize that a rescue is still a business. You still have to budget and plan, and if you don't have enough money you can't keep taking horses in. There's an unfortunate subset that keep taking them in and hope the money is going to somehow show up." Before getting involved with or adopting from an equine rescue, do some research to ensure it's a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is transparent in all its dealings, and is willing and eager to welcome visitors. As Tufts University's Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium states: "Any legitimate shelter, rescue, or sanctuary puts the needs of the animals first, recognizes when capacity to provide care is exceeded, and takes the required steps (stopping intake, increasing adop- tion, increasing staff or resources) in order to provide proper care."—Alexandra Beckstett

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