Editor’s note: It’s not just dogs and cats that find themselves homeless or in need of rescue. Frequently, horses, donkeys and mules need the assistance of a rescue group and the supporting volunteers and donors that make that possible. Locally, many such animals depend on the Equine Aid Horse and Donkey Rescue. Following is an interview with Director Geri Vincent about this wonderful organization.
Give us a brief overview your organization.
Equine Aid Horse and Donkey Rescue has been in operation at our farm in Monroe, Washington since 1999. We, Doug Arneson (my husband) and Geri Vincent bought the farm with the intention to help equines in need. Our farm property came with three abandoned Arabian mares we took into the program. We receive equines in need, rehabilitate them physically and mentally if possible and carefully place them in good homes. If they are not suitable for adoption we keep them here as sanctuary residents. We also offer assistance to owners who may need help with feed, hauling, placing their animals, etc. We actively support banning the slaughter of American horses for European consumption. Below is an excerpt on horse slaughter from the ASPCA:
Every year, more than 100,000 American horses are cruelly slaughtered just over our borders to satisfy the markets for horsemeat in Europe and Asia.
Since the last horse slaughter plants in the U.S. were closed in 2007, unwanted American horses are commonly shipped to Canada and Mexico for slaughter.
The methods used to kill these horses once they arrive at their final destination can be exceptionally inhumane. In Mexico, slaughterhouse workers commonly use small, thin knives to stab horses into a state of paralysis (by severing their spinal cords), and then slaughter them while still fully conscious.
The Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act, recently introduced to Congress, would put an end to this practice by prohibiting the transport of America’s horses across state lines and international borders for slaughter.
Does Equine Aid Rescue utilize foster homes?
Yes! We are fortunate to have three horses in foster homes at this time. When someone is interested in fostering for us we do a site visit and use a foster contract. The contract specifies what the home will provide for the horse (in accordance with their choices) and clarifies their rights and responsibilities.
For what reasons do horses need to be rescued?
We have taken in horses for a multitude of reasons. Seized equines have come in from Skagit Animal Control and we have received many owner surrenders for reasons such as loss of income, the owner’s health issues and farm foreclosures. Many of our horses have been rescued at auction or from feedlots where they were destined for slaughter. Often people are surprised by the quality of horses in the slaughter pens.
Do you utilize volunteers? If so, how many?
We do enjoy the assistance of several volunteers and can always use more help. Our most pressing need is for help with barn chores. We like to make the experience more than just labor and encourage volunteers to pick an animal to spend part of their shift grooming, taking for a walk or just giving some special
attention. Some one on one time is good for the animals and people, too! Here is a link to our volunteer application.
How you do fund rescue efforts?
We realized after several years that the demand for our services required more funding than we could provide out of pocket. We applied for and received 501c3 (federal nonprofit) status in 2010 so that we are allowed to provide tax deductions for donors. As well as monetary or in kind (items to use for the horses or sell for funds toward their care) donations, we have received grants from the ASPCA and donations from gro
ups such as Shop for a Cause and IGive. Although donated funds have slowly increased, the founders still fund 40% of our work as well as donating the use of their farm. We have a Grassroots Groupon campaign coming up in November to help us buy hay and an animal sponsorship program that will be up and running for the holidays on our new web site. We can be found on Facebook at Equine Aid Horse and Donkey Rescue.
How many horses do you help each year?
Fifty to sixty. Not all of those animals come into our program. We provide feed to equines whose owners are unable to feed them (limited by our available funds for hay), help individuals place horses they cannot keep, quarantine equines for other rescuers and assist with hauling, capturing and whatever other help we are asked for as time and funds allow.
Do you adopt out horses? How does that work?
We do offer many of our horses and donkeys for adoption. Some will remain here in permanent sanctuary due to their physical or mental issues.
To adopt an animal the first step is to complete an adoption application. Once completed, we invite you to come meet and interact with the animal you are interested in adopting. During that time the adoption coordinator will speak with you about the animal and get to know you. We have a ‘tell all’ policy: anything we know about the animal, we will share with you. We feel that transparency has a significant impact on making long term placements. We also encourage potential adopters to speak with our veterinarian about the animal or have their own vet come in to do an exam. Once it has been determined that the adopter is a good fit with the animal, we do a site visit at the location where the animal will live.
We check for safety, security and whether the caregiver fully understands the animal’s needs. The next step is to check references: three personal, your veterinarian and your farrier. If it all looks good the adoption is usually completed. The ability to make a quality, long-term placement requires good listening skills, experience understanding people and animals and trusting your instincts. We are attentive to all aspects of the process in our hope to protect the animals we have rescued. Our adoption page: http://www.equineaid.net/adoptionApplication.php
Tell us about your no breeding cause in your adoption contract?
There are literally thousands of horses, donkeys, ponies and mules who are unwanted. Many of them go to slaughter in Mexico or Canada. We hope to never contribute to that number by having our rescue animals reproduce. Spaying has reduced the number of unwanted pets but is not feasible for equines due to the expense and significantly more complex recovery. Our policy is to geld all stallions prior to placement.
A pasture companion, pasture pal or pasture pet, is usually an animal that due to age, physical or mental infirmity can no longer be ridden. We currently house twelve pasture companions, several of them are sanctuary animals. Unfortunately, we have never found a placement for a pasture companion. I am still surprised to realize this! When people want a companion horse they often look to Craigslist ads or word of mouth rather than adopting. Our animals are all current on health care and we will tell you honestly everything we know about the animal. I would think that would be pretty important to anyone taking in an animal. Some animals here are available on a gift contract.
What other things would you like the public to know about your organization or about rescuing equines?
Our primary policy is respect for people as well as animals. Educating people is the pathway to protecting animals’ welfare so our intention is to share knowledge and assistance without judgement. When we take in an animal, it is a commitment for the duration of its life. We check on adopted animals and take them back if the adopters are unable to keep them.
It is imperative that we stop or slow the reproduction of equines to reduce the need for their rescue. Once there are fewer foals being produced the United States will no longer be a significant supplier to the slaughter industry. A ban on the transport of American horses across the borders for slaughter is also imperative.
I know that rescuers often feel overwhelmed by the huge number of animals and the cruelty that they endure. I hope it is reassuring that in the forty years since animal welfare became a concern in my life, I have seen great improvement in the way animals are viewed. Awareness has expanded by leaps and bounds. We must continue to speak up for animals.