Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Bethel, Ohio USA
• Horses: 0
It's an emotional subject but the emotions are largely human, not horse.
As a farrier, I frequently see horses whose market value cannot justify the veterinary/farrier costs to save. Still, people spend the money because of their personal attachment to the animal. I also see a lot of horses that can and probably should be saved with proper care but, the owners simply won't invest the money.
I learned long ago that any recommendation for euthanasia is a private discussion best left between the owner and their vet. At most, and if asked directly, I might offer a personal prognosis opinion but even then, I'll qualify that offering by first reminding the owner that I am not a vet.
Cherie is upset that so many owners are being "forced" to send their sound horses off to the kill pen auctions while this owner (Donut) spends thousands trying to save a dwarf mini. Remember that no one is being "forced" to sell their horse due to hay shortages in the American south. Yes, hay is scarce and expensive, but there are options. Owners are buying hay from out of state and having it shipped in by the truckload. The decision to sell these sound horses is not forced; it's a financial choice. My own area suffered a drought a few years ago and we saw the same thing going on. To feed my own horses, I paid a premium to have a truckload of hay shipped in from Wisconsin. I also supplemented with a forage extender feed. It cost a fortune that year but at no time did anyone "force" me to sell a horse to the kill pens.
Horses don't get to pick their owners and buying/acquiring a horse is a choice that comes with a lot of financial responsibility. People rage at those who do not or cannot meet that responsibility (neglect). We even legislate that responsibility. Still, sound horses go to slaughter and we give those owners a "pass". We say they did the "right thing". Can't afford to care for your horse?... no problem, just sell them at the kill pen. Shed a tear or two as you pull the saddle so everyone understands how heartbroken you are at the "forced" choice. Trouble is, it wasn't forced. Never was. What happened is that someone made a conscience choice to acquire a horse when they were financially incapable of dealing with the potential costs of owning that animal.
We can, should and do legislate the obvious neglect/abuse of an animal. What we cannot do is legislate the freedom of property choice and it's disposal. Nor can we legislate what a person chooses to do with their money, excepting those financial responsibilities mandated by law. Horse are, by definition, livestock. That means they are property with no rights beyond those governing abuse/neglect/transport. What the lady in Romania chooses to do with her livestock or her money is frankly, her choice and her business. Just as much as the non-forced "choice" of someone in Oklahoma to sell their sound horse at a kill pen.
I have a hard time criticizing an owner willing to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars to save their pet (regardless how hopeless) when so many others are willing to dump their own, sound horses at the kill auctions for a couple hundred bucks. Where's the outrage at those folks? Why should someone like Donut's owner feel bad because she didn't step up and take on the kill pen sellers responsibility to care for their own horses?
Most horseman know that the prognosis for a dwarf mini isn't good. Neither are the odds in favor of a horse with bilateral laminitic solar penetration, colic related intestinal rupture, severe limb fractures or dozens of other pathologies. Still, vet clinics and farriers are busy trying to meet the owner's choice to save those animals.
It's an easy thing to armchair quarterback a euthanasia recommendation from the relative comfort of an internet forum. It's something entirely else when you're up close and personal with the animal and their owner.
Feel strongly about sound horses going to the kill pens? Fine, follow your heart (and your pocketbook) and do what you think is best. You might even encourage others to do the same. Tell another owner they should kill their possibly hopeless case and use the money to save a better prospect? Where does that come from?
In the end, none of it is as "heartless" as it appears on the surface. Why? Because the horse doesn't "care". He doesn't "care" because he doesn't know. He has no concept of "tomorrow". His survival is instinctual without the burden of worrying about what will happen tomorrow or even in the next hour. For a horse (or any animal), the concept of death as we know it is generally foreign. They have no sense of their own mortality beyond instinctive survival. It's a blessing that humans gave up in exchange for our ability to reason. Perhaps we got the short end of the stick in that deal.
A vet won't make a euthanasia recommendation over the internet. There's good reason for that and horse owners should take note.
Is Donut's case hopeless? That's a discussion best held between Donut's owner and a vet. Should the owner invest her money in a more hopeful prospect that needs saving? It's an irrelevant question.
One might just as well ask, should horse owners stop putting so much money into the care of their animals and use that money to save starving children in third world countries? How's that for a test of your personal sense of morality?