Reporting abuse or neglect

Have you ever seen an unhappy animal and wonder if it’s abuse?  or wondered what you could do about it?

To know if what you’re seeing is illegal, you’ll need to be sure what you’re seeing is violating horse welfare laws in your state or local area.  Every state is different.   Some states take enforcement seriously.    Some have weak laws and no budget for enforement.    Check with your local horse rescues or SPCA for advice on what is considered crimminal cruelty there.

If you are in Maryland as we are, there is an informative written guideline all law enforcement should follow.  The Minimum Standards of Care outline the basics a horse should be given.

Once you know what the laws are in your state, at least you know if Animal Control can help you.

Then your next step is to file a complaint with your local Animal Control office (which may be located in your area’s SPCA branch).     Stick to the facts, and provide details about date/time, number of horses, the problem(s), and how long the issue has been going on.

With few exceptions, it is legal to take photos of someone’s farm FROM THE ROAD.  Do not tresspass.   Not only can they press charges against you, sneaking onto the farm to gather evidence may make the evidence inadmissable in court.   Do bring a notepad and jot down the number, colors, and other details of the horses.  Keep your notes as objective as possible.  This sort of information is a huge help to cruelty investigators.

To feed or not to feed?  The dilemma when people pass a slow starvation case is what to do.   If you don’t feed, the horse suffers more.   If you do feed, when Animal Control does come out, they can’t prosecute if they see that ample food has suddenly been provided.    You may also be tresspassing by feeding the thin horse who lives down the street. Without knowing why a horse is thin, there is also the possibility of making him sick if you give him something he cannot handle.    The horse may have infected teeth, cancer, an unusal tendency towards choke, or some other problem.  This does not excuse the horse owner for letting an animal suffer, but do take this into account before throwing food at a horse you don’t know.      I would suggest working with your local Animal Control office.  Share your concerns.   They may know something about the situation you don’t.

One thing you cannot do is take the horse.   Even if you believe the horse is abandoned, you must go through legal channels to take over his ownership.    A well meaning person can find themselves charged with theft (and the horse put right back into the bare paddock to be ignored), which helps nobody.

Do follow up with Animal Control.  Give them a reasonable amount of time to visit the farm.    If situations have not changed, call again and file another complaint.   Sometimes it’s the squeaky wheel that gets things done.

One other option that sometimes works is to befriend the horse owner.  Sometimes people don’t mean to neglect their horses.    See what the problem is and help them solve it.    Or coordinate a voluntary surrender, where the owner willingly gives the horse up to a shelter or good home.

If you have questions about Equine welfare issues in Equihab’s area (near Cecil County, Maryland), contact us.    Otherwise, check in your phone book or online to find a welfare organization in your hometown.

Thanks for looking out for the horses.  We must be their voices, for they cannot speak.