Equine welfare in the US remains under serious pressure, but there are early signs of a turnaround, a new report says.
The Equine Welfare Alliance , with the help of the Animal Law Coalition, has released the first Annual Equine Welfare Report. The report contains statistics and records obtained from federal and state agencies as well as breed registries.
Ongoing falls in foal registrations across major breeds in the US continue to mark the parlous state of the nation’s horse industry
“The findings are grim for the horse industry,” alliance president John Holland said.
“We found that the decline in new registrations which began in 2005 continued into 2013, with some breeds reporting registrations down as much as 75 percent.”
The report details the price of hay in every state over the past decade, with increases in many states of more than 100 percent, and some showing increases as much as 220 percent.
Worst hit were the western and southwestern states, which were plagued by persistent drought.
However, the report offered a glimmer of hope in recent increases in the amount of land allocated to hay production following the removal of corn ethanol subsidies that Congress ended in 2011. This marks the first upturn in more than a decade.
The report also found that the export of horses to slaughter declined in 2013, down from an almost two-decade high in 2012.
An earlier study by the alliance found that the price of hay was the dominant factor in determining the likely rate of neglect, with the rate of unemployment coming in a distant second.
The report also contained a detailed record of legal and legislative battles that have raged over the past few years, especially as concerns horse slaughter.
“Slaughter in the US is now illegal again thanks to the tireless efforts of Americans who care about horse welfare,” Animal Law Coalition president Laura Allen said. “But the effort continues to ban the export of horses for slaughter in other countries.”
The report also provided an update in the abuse and neglect rates in the five states where records are kept at state level.
Only Colorado showed an increased rate of neglect, but it was the only state that reports such data within the drought-plagued regions.
Holland explained: “When the price of hay increases dramatically, you can be sure that the neglect rate will follow the same trajectory.”
Holland and Allen, who prepared the report, said in its executive summary that signs of improvement in the overall environment in 2013 included reduced neglect rates, increased hay production and declining slaughter. “However, it must be stated that these trends are tentative and at best nascent in nature.”
The full report can be read here.