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December 21, 2012

Improving Welfare for Wild, Companion and Working Equines in 2012

George
George, a recent arrival to our Duchess Sanctuary in Oregon.
Photo by Jennifer Kunz
The abuse of the horse provided the original impetus for creation of the American humane movement in the second half of the 19th century. But with the development of the internal combustion engine in the early 20th century, there was a dramatic change in the place of the horse in the culture and the economy. Today, the Humane Society of the United States is one of the few national organizations with an expert staff driving a major agenda to help horses. We launched our Equine Protection department in 2006, and we maintain several of the largest horse sanctuary or rescue facilities in the country – the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch and its Doris Day Horse Rescue and Adoption Center in Murchison, Texas, and the Duchess Sanctuary in Oakland, Ore. 


More than ever, The HSUS is leading the fight for horses and other equines in the United States. Here are our top 9 accomplishments in 2012 for the noble animals who have had such a profound impact on the settlement and formation of our nation.


  • A groundbreaking HSUS undercover investigation documented shocking abuse of Tennessee walking horses that led to criminal indictments and public outrage. A federal judge fined trainer Jackie McConnell $75,000 and gave him three years’ probation (and the U.S. Department of Agriculture permanently disqualified him from ever showing a horse again), in the wake of our investigation, which included film footage of McConnell bashing horses in the face and applying caustic chemicals to their feet in order to achieve the unnatural “big lick” gait prized in the industry.

  • The USDA finalized a new rule requiring mandatory minimum penalties for violations of the Horse Protection Act, a federal law to prevent soring. The HSUS and other animal protection groups had previously filed a petition with USDA seeking this and other reforms to improve enforcement.

  • The HSUS worked with U.S. Reps. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., to introduce legislation to strengthen the Horse Protection Act and allow for a stronger crackdown on the widespread abuse within the Tennessee walking horse show world. The HSUS launched a hotline to receive tips on horse soring and offer tipsters a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone caught soring a horse. Also, the Corolla Wild Horses Protection Act, sponsored by Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., passed the House.

  • The HSUS joined local advocates to block horse slaughter plants from opening in Missouri and New Mexico, and worked with New Jersey advocates to pass a state law that bans horse slaughter for human consumption and the transport of horsemeat for human consumption.

  • We filed petitions with the Food and Drug Administration and USDA to declare horsemeat as adulterated, and unfit for human consumption, on account of the drugs and veterinary treatments commonly used in horses and the lack of a verifiable tracking system for these medications.

  • After discussions with The HSUS, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department suspended a policy allowing burros in Big Bend Ranch State Park to be killed. We continue to encourage the department to take a nonlethal approach to the management of these animals.

  • The HSUS, partnering with Dr. Brady Bergin, continued our project to humanely gather and re-home an at-risk herd of wild donkeys (480 animals to date) in Hawaii. There are approximately 100 remaining donkeys in need of rescue and rehoming.

  • When the Atlantic City Steel Pier announced plans to bring back an inhumane “horse diving” act, HSUS staff contacted state officials, spoke out against the plan, and applauded the subsequent decision to cancel the event.

  • In the international arena, Humane Society International initiated collaboration with local equine animal rescue groups to establish a horse sanctuary in Nicaragua, where Nicaraguans can bring working horses (carriage, transportation and farm horses) for rest and rehabilitation. HSI also launched a public education campaign in the European Union to educate consumers on health risks associated with North American horsemeat, in order to reduce the demand for horsemeat worldwide. In Haiti, we continued to train Haitian veterinarians on equine health and treat working equines in our field clinics throughout the country, and we formed a partnership with the Haitian government and global nongovernmental organization Heifer International to provide ongoing treatment for working equines.

In 2013, our top priorities include securing passage of federal legislation to strengthen the Horse Protection Act and ending soring, and demanding that the federal Bureau of Land Management dramatically scale down its round-ups and removals of wild horses and scale up its use of fertility control.

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