CONSIDER THE OWNER
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