Edited press release
The Unwanted Horse Coalition, which started as the Unwanted Horse Summit during the American Horse Council convention in April 2005, is being folded into the American Horse Council. The possibility was discussed this April when the plan was presented to the AHC board of trustees.
"The issue of 'unwanted horses' has faced this industry for some time," said AHC president Nick Nicholson, president of Keeneland. "It is an important and challenging national issue that faces all breeds and all activities in the horse world. Putting this initiative under the umbrella of the AHC, which represents all segments of the horse industry, is a natural fit."
The Unwanted Horse Coalition grew out of a workshop that the American Association of Equine Practitioners organized as part of the 2005 AHC National Issues Forum in Washington, D.C. That meeting, and a subsequent summit in Chicago five months later, drew equine and welfare organizations together to begin discussions about the tens of thousands of horses that are unwanted each year and sent to slaughter facilities.
Over the last 18 months, the group developed a mission statement, began identifying long-term solutions for improving the quality of life for unwanted horses, and considered an operating plan that ultimately led to the suggestion that the AHC provide a permanent administrative home for the group's work.
"The need for a more formal structure, funding and staff to accomplish the coalition's mission prompted many of the members of the coalition to suggest that it be affiliated with the AHC," said Dr. Tom Lenz, past president of the AAEP who served as chairman of the group. "Many of these associations already have a relationship with the horse council and feel comfortable in getting the council more involved."
The mission of the coalition is to explore ways to reduce the number of horses that are unwanted each year, and to improve their welfare through education and the efforts of organizations committed to the health, safety and responsible care of the horse. Owner education will be a focal point.
Advocacy in the legislative arena is not part of the mission. In fact, the coalition will not involve itself in any federal or state legislation dealing with slaughter or the processing of horses for human consumption.
"The horse industry has a responsibility to its horses," AHC president Jay Hickey said. "All organizations and individuals, whether they use their horses for breeding, sport, show, work, recreation, or pleasure, have a responsibility to ensure that everything is being done to minimize the number of horses that might fall into this unwanted group."
Several members of the coalition have indicated they will continue to be involved with the effort through the AHC and provide funding. The list includes the AAEP, American Quarter Horse Association, National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Professional Rodeo Stock Contractors, The Jockey Club, and the U.S. Trotting Association.
"We expect other organizations to be added to these groups," Hickey said. "Several have already indicated their interest in staying involved in this effort."
The coalition will hire a staff person to run the day-to-day activities of the coalition and a Web site will be launched in the near future to provide horse owners with resources about caring for horses and finding new homes for them.