CON­SIDER THE OWNER

EQUUS - - Eq Conversati­ons -

Be­cause I pose these prob­ing ques­tions when peo­ple ask me about re­port­ing thin horses, I am some­times ac­cused of not be­ing on the side of the horse. Noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth. I have been in­volved with horses, on many dif­fer­ent lev­els, for more than 30 years. But, as some­one who grew up in a tra­di­tional agri­cul­tural set­ting, I also feel the plight of own­ers wrongly ac­cused.

In my ca­reer, I have seen horses on both sides of the coin—those who should have been re­ported and those who should not. The for­mer are un­de­ni­ably tragic. No one wants to see horses suf­fer need­lessly.

But the lat­ter can be tragic in a dif­fer­ent way. An in­ex­pe­ri­enced and/or poorly ed­u­cated in­ves­ti­ga­tor will some­times seize thin­ner horses who had ac­tu­ally been well cared for. This can be very costly to the own­ers who may need to take time away from work and hire a lawyer to ap­peal the rul­ing and prove that the horses were wrong­fully seized—and even aside from the money, there’s the dam­age to the owner’s per­sonal rep­u­ta­tion and the stress to the horses. In some ju­ris­dic­tions, the owner might be sub­ject to crim­i­nal charges.

No ques­tion, we need to do a bet­ter job of ed­u­cat­ing hu­mane in­ves­ti­ga­tors so they are more ca­pa­ble of as­sess­ing whether horses are re­ceiv­ing ad­e­quate care be­fore they ini­ti­ate seizures. But there’s an­other facet to that prob­lem: Those of us who are ex­pe­ri­enced with horses need to be cer­tain we know what we are do­ing be­fore we re­port an­other owner for ne­glect.— Hope El­lis-Ash­burn

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