I believe that, in their hearts, every true horseman would like to see the perceived need for equine slaughter eliminated, even those who support it as the only practical way to deal with “unwanted” horses in America. Now, a unique opportunity to do just this has presented itself thanks to an unparalleled expansion of the country’s equine rescue and sanctuary resources to save horses displaced due to the economy.

At the same time, it appears the recession has chased many of the marginal commercial and backyard breeders–major sources of the excess horse problem–out of business, and countless owners that could barely afford their horses have had to give them up. Already the number of horses being slaughtered in Canada and Mexico is shrinking. One report from the Equine Welfare Alliance puts the total for both countries at the end of August 2010 right at 75,000–the lowest in many years.

Horses displaced by the economy over the past few years have forced equine rescue operators such as myself to not only expand our sanctuary capacities but also to find new ways to save many more horses than we have in the past.

Sponsored foster homes and new programs such as in-place rescues to help owners keep and support their horses with feed banks and other financial assistance have vastly expanded our capacity to improve horse welfare. For instance, the Oregon hay bank program alone (which provides owners with enough hay to keep their horses healthy during times of crisis), created and operated by horse rescuers, has kept almost 800 horses in their homes since 2009, and similar efforts are under way in other states.

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