AQHA Responds to Allegations From Horse Charity

The American Quarter Horse Association, which has hundreds of thousands of members, has reiterated its position on euthanasia and horse slaughter in the wake of an accusatory Blue Horse Charities letter that was disseminated to the racing industry in early November.

The letter, signed by Ward Stutz, director of member services and public policy for the AQHA, said the unsigned Blue Horse Charities letter contained "several misleading, incomplete, and false claims" about the AQHA. The AQHA has a position on euthanasia that was drafted with assistance by the American Association of Equine Practitioners and the American Veterinary Medical Association, both of which were accused by Blue Horse Charities of joining with the AQHA to thwart passage of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act.

"AQHA does not support (the legislation), and the association does not favor slaughter as a means of dealing with unwanted horses," Stutz said in his letter. "What AQHA favors is horse owners having all legal choices available for the difficult end-of-life decisions. AQHA also recognizes that adoption and retirement facilities are options for owners, and would endorse federal regulations and standards that would govern the operations of these facilities.

"That said, AQHA does have serious concerns about any federally imposed ban on processing facilities. Chief among our concerns is taking away a viable humane euthanasia option, which would increase instances of abuse and neglect of unwanted horses. This has been supported by an independent, scientific study. We do not want to see horses starved, mistreated, neglected or shipped to other countries where processing facilities are not regulated by U.S. law or USDA officials.

"To assist, AQHA supported legislation to ensure that regulations were in place for horses transported to slaughter facilities. Simply put, AQHA wants to ensure humane transportation for those horses that are bound for processing, and that owners and members have the right to choose for themselves whether or not to use a humanely operated, federally inspected facility."

The AQHA said it also uses educational programs for owners on the responsibilities of caring for horses, and encourages recreational riding programs. It also funds research in the "millions of dollars," Stutz said in the letter.

The Blue Horse Charities letter also claimed the AQHA doesn't represent the position of many of its members in regard to horse slaughter, but Stutz said about 85% of the AQHA's directors agreed or strongly agreed with the organization's current position, according to a poll.

"If members believe it's necessary for their association to alter its position on the issue of unwanted horses or euthanasia of horses, then they simply need to contact AQHA, contact any AQHA director, or attend their association's annual convention," Stutz said.

In the letter mailed in early November, Blue Horse Charities, formed in partnership with Fasig-Tipton Co. in 2001, said it doesn't necessarily have a bone to pick with members of the three organizations, but with the organizations "that purport to represent them. It is our opinion that these organizations are listening to those to whom approximately $500 a head is good enough reason for putting tens of thousands of horses through the terror and misery that precede a grisly death."

The organizations targeted by Blue Horse Charities have been proactive in terms of making their positions public via policy statements. Representatives said they were somewhat surprised by the allegations contained in the letter.

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