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December 22, 2009

Survivor Stories: Starved Mustang Now Shines

Our movement was formally launched in the 19th century, through the work of Henry Bergh and the ASPCA, around a concern for the welfare of the horse. Today, in the field of animal protection, our movement has broadened its reach, and amazingly so. There are so many organizations, and included among them are organizations that work on many issues (such as The HSUS, Animal Legal Defense Fund, PETA, and many others) and groups that focus on one type of animal or one category of use or abuse—such as factory farming (Farm Sanctuary or Humane Farming Association), animal experimentation (National Anti-Vivisection Society, American Anti-Vivisection Society, New England Anti-Vivisection Society), the use of animals in entertainment (Performing Animal Welfare Society), feral cats (Alley Cat Allies), and so many others. Fortunately, there are groups for almost every type of animal and every form of abuse.

Thistle, among 200 starved mustangs rescued in Nebraska
The HSUS
Thistle, soon after being rescued. See his survivor story.

But one thing that strikes me about our modern-day movement, given the role of the horse in the founding of the humane movement and the prominence of the horse in American history and our culture and the widespread affection that exists for them today, is the absence of a strong, national organization that advocates for horse protection. With 9 million horses in America, and so many people of means who have affection for horses, you would think such an organization must exist. But it doesn’t. And after The HSUS and the Doris Day Animal League combined our operations about three years ago, I spoke with my colleague Holly Hazard and I said it is time for us to create a hard-hitting equine protection department within The HSUS that can be an advocate for the horse. A group is needed to take on horse slaughter, to fight “soring” abuses within the Tennessee Walking horse industry, to protect wild horses and burros, to focus on large scale cruelty cases involving equines, to help set standards for the 500-plus horse sanctuaries and rescues across the country, and to celebrate the special bond we have with this majestic creature.

Under the leadership of our Equine Protection director Keith Dane, we are now leading this fight, in concert with horse advocates and local horse organizations across the nation. And we are also responding to cruelty cases involving horses. Our team spent weeks providing lifesaving care and finding good homes for the 82 horses we rescued about a month ago in Tennessee. And earlier this year, we saved Thistle, who was one of nearly 200 emaciated mustangs we helped to rescue in rural Nebraska. Thistle was found in dire straits among dozens of horses who had already starved to death. Having endured months of neglect and starvation, he and the rest of the herd required weeks of intense emergency care.

Thanks to your support, we were able to offer him a special home (along with more than 80 of the other rescued mustangs) at our Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch in central Texas. Once there, Thistle was given even more second chances—rehabilitative training with world-renowned natural horseman Pat Parelli and a loving adoptive home. Watch this final video in our Survivor series to see his happy ending.

The day we arrived on the scene in Nebraska, Thistle became a survivor. To allow us to advocate for horses and other animals next year, please consider making a special year-end gift to our Animal Survivors Fund. Our goal is to raise $1 million before year’s end, but any amount you can give will make a difference in helping horses like Thistle, saved from starvation, seals like Sully, spared from the unforgiving clubs of Canadian sealers, dogs like Fay, rescued from the barbaric practice of animal fighting, and so many other suffering animals.

Thank you to those of you who have already given to our Animal Survivors Fund, and in advance to those who will contribute to our lifesaving work.

Watch Thistle's story then please give to The HSUS's 2010 Animal Survivors Fund

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