E very horse lover’s worst nightmare is seeing a clear case of neglect or abuse happening and not having a clear idea on how to go about taking action to help the poor souls. For this exact reason, we’ve put together this helpful guide on what you can do to stop these horrible situations, how and when to intervene when you see them, and how to make a proper report when you want to get the authorities involved.
So, to get right to it, here are the main steps you should take when you’re trying to stop abuse or neglect:
Ways to Stop It
Set an Example
First and foremost, as the saying goes, “Be the change you want to see in the world”. If you have them, treat your horses the right way and encourage others to do so, too. Call out bad practices when you see them or show people the right way to go about taking care of these beautiful animals by sharing your care techniques.
Speak Up or Intervene
These actions can prove to be beneficial only in situations where the owner might not be aware of the neglect, as would be the case when the horse saddle used is the wrong size or has been damaged to a point where it’s inflicting pain on the animal by pinching its shoulders or badly chafing the skin. Or, another example would be when the owner might have been misinformed of how to use certain training tools, like attaching spurs to the horse riding boots when they aren’t yet familiarized with how to use heel cues to guide the horse.
Use Social Media to your Advantage
Using platforms like Facebook or Twitter could be a great and quick way of getting experts’ or animal’s rights activists’ opinions on what you should do once you see a case in your state. One important thing to remember is to refrain from calling out a specific case by posting address details and photos online, especially if you haven’t reported it yet to the local authorities. While it might seem beneficial, what that does is flood the authorities’ messages and calls only with requests about that respective case, thus making it harder to gather information on other important reports. Also, another downside could be the owner seeing the post and concealing any evidence or the animal itself, bringing everyone’s efforts down to zero.
Do Research Work
Read up on the laws of your state and what exactly can be done. Find out what exactly counts as abuse in your area and how serious the offense is. This could help you during a one-on-one talk with the owner to try to mend the situation without involving others, or even before you’re gathering proof of the neglect, as you’ll know what to focus on. Also, research what the local authorities or rescue agencies can do for the horse itself. In most cases, the police and related departments can investigate and remove the horse if necessary by using a warrant, whereas local humane societies or rescues can only investigate and aid with rescuing and case preparing (in some areas they are also allowed to remove the animal if its life is in immediate danger).
Report the case.
Tips on How to Report a Case
- When giving the address or location, be as specific as possible.
Whether you’re reporting a case of neglect or one of abandonment, the authorities need to know exactly where to go, so providing a vague location will amount to nothing.
- Give as many details as you can about the animal and the condition it is kept in.
Its color, specific markings, size, and gait could be important to the investigation, as well as all the signs of neglect you can see. Those can be directly connected to the horse (wounds, emaciation, leg issues, bald patches, sunburns) or they can be connected to the condition it is kept in (no source of nutrition or water, no shelter, filthy enclosure).
- Collect evidence by taking photos of the condition of the stables or the animal itself, the food, the rough handling, or any improper, harmful, or abusive methods used by the owner when interacting with the animal.
Everyone has some sort of device on their person that they can use to gather photos or videos which can prove your claims, but be careful when doing so, as in many states it is illegal to trespass, therefore you’ll have to take them standing on the pubic road. In some circumstances, other laws might not allow you to film someone at all without their consent, so the evidence might not be worth anything. Another thing is to be wary of the person you’re showing this evidence to, as they should be an authority figure or a worker aware of the animal’s rights and what the proper course of action should be.
An alternative to taking photos or videos could be documentation through the written word. Collect details in an agenda about the location, what the horses look like, how they are treated, and how they change physically throughout a couple of days.
- Make sure to follow up after you’ve made a report, to check on how things are developing.
If the neglect is only mild, the course of action could be that the officers will give a second chance for the owner to right any wrongs. You can only report a second time months after if there haven’t been any changes, or maybe sooner if the previous condition starts to worsen.
In extreme situations, when the animal’s life is at risk, you can stay on-site and wait for the authorities, and they will most likely remove the horse from any near-death situations (extremely dehydrated or emaciated, injured to the point of laying on the ground, caught in a trap or fence and unable to free itself).
Try to Avoid
To keep yourself safe and to have a real chance at saving the horse, or horses, in question, there are some things that you should avoid doing:
- Trespassing or getting physical with the owner – Both of these actions could get you either seriously injured or sued. And neither helps with the end goal.
- Interacting with the animal in any way – As difficult as it might be, don’t feed or give water to the horse, and in under no circumstance should you take the animal off of someone’s property. Officers’ task of building a case against the owner will be far more difficult if there is evidence of food or water present, regardless of where those originated from. And, in the case that you would remove the horse yourself, the owner can, again, sue you for multiple offenses and get the animal right back to the same treatment.
Always be careful when you’re trying to be the hero. Even if rescue missions might seem easy in movies, in real life, one wrong action could put you in harm’s way quicker than you’d think, or you might even end up being the one going to jail. Always do proper research before taking any kind of action, as impulsive decisions can do more harm than good in this type of case.