Horses are one of the 4 most commonly abused animals in the United States, joining cats, dogs, and livestock. Although animal neglect and abuse is illegal, most state and federal agencies in the US do not gather animal abuse statistics. This means we can’t say exactly how many horses are being mistreated, but we can discuss what mistreatment of these beautiful animals may mean for the abusers and their families.
We can also look toward the future. Starting in 2016, the Federal Bureau of Investigation will be adding cruelty to animals as a specific category in their annual Uniform Crime Report. About 33% of US communities offer data to this report, so the statistics on horse neglect and abuse will not be thorough, but it’s at least a start.
Data collection from 2016 and into the future will include neglect, intentional abuse, organized abuse, and sexual abuse.
Domestic Abuse and Horse Neglect
There has been data gathered by the Humane Society which shows that there is a disturbing correlation between horse neglect and abuse with domestic violence. Many abusers who target their families will also target the animals that they own.
- In the United States, 20 people suffer from some form of domestic abuse per minute. This means an average of 10 million people in the US are in abusive relationships right now.
- 71% of domestic violence victims have reported that the person who abused them also targeted their animals.
- When families are under investigation for child abuse, 88% of the founded cases also had at least one instance of animal abuse as well.
- About 1 in 4 animal abuse cases involve horses or livestock, according to 2011 data compiled by the Pet Abuse Digest in 2011.
- There are up to 2,000 new cases of animal hoarding that are discovered in the US every year. An estimated 250,000 animals are affected by the practice of animal hoarding.
- Every major circus that uses animals as part of their performance has been cited by the US Animal Welfare Agency for violating minimum care standards.
- Rodeo events can also create stressful situations for horses and other animals, relying on harsh handling practices in order to create the needed performance.
Abuse and neglect can come in many forms. It can be the intentional harming of a horse. It can also be distributed through unintentional methods, such as hoarding, while being unable to afford the proper care the horse needs.
The average person who intentionally injures a horse is a man under the age of 30. For those involved with abuse and neglect due to hoarding issues, the average person causing the harm is a woman above the age of 60.
How to Stop Horse Neglect and Abuse
If you see something, then say something.
This is the fastest and easiest way to begin getting abused and neglected horses the care that they need. Since March 2014, all 50 states in the US have provisions within their laws that offer felony charges for those who abuse their animals. Yet there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. Here’s why.
- There are still 4 states in the US which do not allow a felony charge to be brought against a first-time animal abuser. Iowa, Mississippi, Ohio, and Pennsylvania can only charge people with an animal abuse felony after a first conviction.
- 7 states in the US do not have a zero-tolerance policy within their laws, meaning that those accused with horse abuse and neglect may be able to plea-bargain their case to lower charges.
- Many animal abuse laws are only designed to address severe, aggravated cruelty issues, such as torture or the intentional killing of an animal. Simple neglect may still be ignored, especially if the health threat to the animal is considered to be minimal at the time of evalution.
- Many states do not currently consider livestock to be part of their animal cruelty laws. Depending on the state’s definition of “livestock,” this may include horses.
- Signed in 1966, the Animal Welfare Act still only helps to control issues of exhibition, transportation, and research.
Is Horse Slaughter Actually Horse Abuse or Neglect?
When searching for horse neglect and abuse statistics, you’ll also typically find slaughter statistics included in the data. About 150,000 horses are slaughtered for food products every year from the US, even though the consumption of horse meat by humans in the US is illegal. These products are shipped out to other countries, with even much of the slaughtering happening outside domestic borders.
These slaughter statistics are often included because many feel an ethical obligation to protect horses due to their intelligence. How these facts are treated is up to you.
- Before the domestic horse slaughter industry in the US was banned in 2006, it generated over $65 million in revenues.
- Horse slaughter rates have reduced by over 50% since 1989.
- Nearly 70% of horse rescue operations are already operating at capacity, if not over capacity.
- About 40% of the horses that are brought to rescue operations are turned away because there is a lack of space.
- This is causing horse abandonment rates to rise by over 60% in some states.
- Horse slaughter plants in the US were often foreign-owned and paid very little in taxes. In one extreme example, a plant paid just $5 on $12 million in total sales.
There are actions being taken to further reduce the number of horses that are being sent to slaughter. This includes the requirement of veterinarian records for all horses that could potentially enter the human food chain, extending the amount of time required for a horse to be slaughtered after being purchased, and seeking out other high-protein food items that can be sent to hungry nations.
There Are Many Ways to Take Action Against Horse Neglect and Abuse
From supporting local agencies that reach out to struggling horse owners to animal shelters to law enforcement support, there is a way that you can take action today. Not every case of horse neglect or abuse may be intentional, but the outcome is still the same for the animal.
Working to stop domestic abuse is another way that horse abuse and neglect can be prevented. A vast majority of abuse cases come from households where domestic violence occurs.
Not supporting corporate farming is another simple, but still effective, way to encourage less abuse and neglect. Although not every corporate farm employs horses or sends them to slaughter, their mass scale can often cause unintentional abuse due to the metrics and margins that are used in their facilities.
Horses are beautiful creatures and deserve to be treated with care. By strengthening laws, identifying high risk households, and supporting local agencies who can intervene when necessary, together we really can make a difference.