We should support good horse rescues. Since humane societies are rarely equipped to take in equines, these private organizations fill a huge need. However, some “rescues” are really scams, hoarders, or horse dealers in disguise. Here’s how to tell the altruists from the underhanded.
Emotional Scare Tactics
However, if an organization is constantly bombarding the public with tales of woe and pitiful pictures, that’s a sign that they’re deliberately milking tragedies.
This is especially true when the sad stories are about the rescue manager’s personal life: medical bills, feeling let down or persecuted by others, vehicle breakdowns, et cetera. Anyone who continually cries “pity me!” should not be in charge of what is essentially a very demanding large-animal business.
Although rescues are normally non-profit, they are still professional establishments. Like any business, they shouldn’t spend more they can make (receive in donations), or take on more work (animals) than they can handle. Horse rescues that consistently beg for help, fall short on hay, and are in debt to the local vet, yet are still taking in more horses, are not rescues at all: they are hoarders.
They may intend to provide good care and rehabilitate and adopt out all their equines. However, they amass so many, they don’t have the time or money to do so. Neglect ensues. Volunteers can help this situation, but they are only temporary relief. Good rescues are able to responsibly limit intake and adopt out enough horses on a regular basis that overstretching is rarely an issue.
Failure to Adopt
Sometimes rescues act too much like permanent sanctuaries, warehousing even healthy horses instead of helping them move on. Somehow, no adopter is ever good enough.
Or alternatively, none of the horses are “really ready” to be adopted. Hoarders also resist euthanizing equines that have long lacked good quality of life. This is doubly shameful, since the donations keeping one suffering horse alive could instead be used to take in a healthier one.
On the other end of the spectrum are the horse dealers posing as rescuers. These brokers care only about a quick profit. Preying on the public’s sympathy, they take in donations for feed, vet, and farrier bills—and pocket most of them.
Dealers disguised as rescuers rarely bother with any real adoption requirements or contracts. They will sell intact studs and sometimes even breed mares regardless of their conformation or health. They don’t quarantine new intakes and will lie about a horse’s health and abilities in order to sell it. They actively seek out horses to take in, even from out of state, so they can sell them again quickly.
These opportunists may claim to be “non-profit,” but their personal finances are often mixed with the rescue’s. An establishment’s 501(c)3 status can easily be checked by visiting the Exempt Organizations page on the IRS’s website, or by calling the EO department directly at 877-829-5500.
When researching a rescue, look for transparency. A rescue asking for public donations should be willing to provide, or proactively offer, proof of their honesty.
Pictures and descriptions of each horse being cared for and offered for adoption should be easily accessible, along with a thorough explanation of how the adoption process works. A board of directors, monthly meeting minutes, up-to-date financial records, and certification by state or national agencies are the gold standards here. One such agency is the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.
Fortunately, there are many great rescues out there whose dedicated, hard-working staff deserve our time and financial support. Just be sure to vet them thoroughly!
This article originally appeared in the December 2015 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!