While browsing social media, I found the following article written by the founder of Polo Pony Rescue in California. It speaks to something many equine rescues and sanctuaries are experiencing - an increasing number of both individuals and organizations who are bailing kill pen equines in numbers beyond their capacity to care for them. For individuals, this usually plays out by folks calling rescues in their area asking them to take horses they "saved." Is it really a "rescue" if you have no place for the animal to go, or no plan on how to help it? Organizationally, we see groups who regularly "clear the pens" and then send the pulled equines to homes across the country - often with no home or reference checks. Many times these horses end right back up in the auction pipeline, and sometimes worse. Most often, the veterinary needs of kill pen equines proves too much for the average home and they, again, reach out to rescue for help. It is a vicious cycle that exploits equines and legitimate equine rescue at every turn.
Finn (pictured below) is a horse who was rescued once before we got involved. Bailed from a kill pen by a "mass bailing" rescue, only to be sent to a hoarding situation where he was starved within days or hours of death. He is now in sanctuary with us.
"Minimum $84,000 that a rescue will have to put out caring for this unadoptable sanctuary horse that is only in need of a home because you got the idea to pull her from a kill pen without having a long term plan in place for her care for the next twenty years"
"I've removed identifying details, but this is a response I sent recently to yet another inquiry from someone who pulled a horse from a kill pen and can't keep it and was discouraged that no one was even responding to her messages. Please pass this along to your friend who is thinking about pulling a horse from a kill pen."
"I'm going to respond to you but you may not like my response.
The reason people aren't answering you is that we are all very angry at people who "rescue" horses from kill pens without committing to keep them for life. What you're doing is flooding the already flooded rescue system with even more horses. And these aren't adoptable horses. These are horses that were in the kill pen in the first place because they had major soundness problems and the person at the track didn't want to pay to euthanize them, so they called the kill buyer. The vast majority of young horses in kill pens have major soundness problems. A young horse with soundness problems doesn't cost what you paid to pull her. She costs $350 a month for a good solid 20-25 years, and that's if hay doesn't go up again and if there are no unusual vet bills. So minimum $84,000 that a rescue will have to put out caring for this unadoptable sanctuary horse that is only in need of a home because you got the idea to pull her from a kill pen without having a long term plan in place for her care for the next twenty years.
We all have major financial burdens, [name]. I am working two jobs right now to keep this rescue afloat and looking for a third. That is on top of doing five hours of chores a day. If you want this horse to stay alive, I would highly suggest heading to LinkedIn and looking for one of the many remote jobs that you can do while home with a baby so that you can continue to pay for this horse that you chose to pull. Remember, your choice. I didn't pull her because I knew I couldn't afford more horses and that is why no other rescue pulled her either. No one has any money. The only way to create money for this horse to stay alive is you work the hours to produce the money to keep this horse alive. You have to care as much about her right now as you did when you were looking at her on the Internet and eagerly sending the money to save her. You have to care enough about her to be as overworked and stressed and sleep deprived and freaked out about money as me and everybody else running a horse rescue. It's on you - not anybody else.
I figure there is a 99% chance you'll just think I'm mean and a 1% chance you'll do what it takes to keep this sweet horse safe and alive. For her sake, I hope you have it in you to do the hard thing."
"To this person's credit, she did not get mad and actually responded that I'd given her a lot to think about. I hope she found a way to keep the horse. I truly do. But I have accepted I can't do anything more than I'm already doing, and I say no on a near-daily basis."
It is a hard message to hear - but for those of us on the side of ethical rescue, it is a hard truth that needed to be said. Thanks to Polo Pony Rescue for having the courage to say it.