Horse Welfare Wars: When Emotion and Fact Collide (AAEP 2010)

Equine welfare and the growing population of horses needing homes are quickly becoming some of the major challenges that veterinarians face on a daily basis, according to Tom Lenz, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACT, chairman of the Unwanted Horse Coalition, who delivered the keynote speech, entitled “Horse Welfare Wars: When Emotion and Fact Collide,” at the 2010 Annual American Association of Equine
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Equine welfare and the growing population of horses needing homes are quickly becoming some of the major challenges that veterinarians face on a daily basis, according to Tom Lenz, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACT, chairman of the Unwanted Horse Coalition, who delivered the keynote speech, entitled "Horse Welfare Wars: When Emotion and Fact Collide," at the 2010 Annual American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) convention, which was held Dec. 4-8 in Baltimore. During his talk Lenz reviewed how he believes the issue of unwanted horses arose, urging veterinarians to confront the issue and educate owners on how they can help combat it, and offering some suggestions on how the industry as a whole might greatly reduce the number of unwanted horses in America.

And according to Lenz, the problem is not one that's likely to be resolved quickly and easily: "The more you know about the unwanted horse issue it, the more complicated the solutions becomes," he noted.

First, Lenz covered some vocabulary: Unwanted horses, says Lenz, are horses that are no longer wanted by their current owners because they are old, injured, sick, unmanageable, or simply fail to meet the owners' expectations. "Welfare is defined as the physical and psychological state of the animal," Lenz said. He added that good welfare is generally described as meeting the horse's physiological, psychological, and safety needs.

Lenz believes the closing of American equine processing plants is one of several issues which led to the proliferation of unwanted horses and equine welfare situations. Others include the economic recession which has decreased the market for horses and irresponsible ownership which has resulted in over breeding in some segments of the industry

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Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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