Drought, Economy Heighten Fears Of Horse Neglect

LEXINGTON, KY -- Drought and turbulence in the economy might lead to increased reports of horse neglect in coming months, said the director of equine protection for The Humane Society of the United States, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader in its Sunday edition.

Many responsible horse owners are falling on hard times and having a difficult time making ends meet, said Keith Dane during a Saturday visit to Lexington.

"That doesn't excuse equine neglect," Dane said. "Certainly we hope and expect horse owners to put the welfare of their animals at a high level of priority. If they anticipate they are going to have a problem, they should seek help before it becomes a problem for the horse and before it becomes a welfare issue and the horse needs to be seized or, even worse, possibly euthanized."

The availability of hay also is a concern after the dry summer, said Ginny Grulke, executive director of the Kentucky Horse Council, the Lexington-based organization dedicated to the promotion and growth of the equine industry, reports the Herald-Leader.

Most of Kentucky, including Central Kentucky, remains in a moderate drought after experiencing the driest August and September since 1897, according to the University of Kentucky Agricultural Weather Center. Eastern Kentucky is in a severe drought, according to the center's latest report.

If conditions don't improve soon, Grulke said "there is a concern" of a repeat of 2007, when drought reduced hay stocks in Kentucky, and horse-rescue operations took in more malnourished animals, the newspaper reports.

Perhaps the most notorious Kentucky case of malnourished horses came in late March, when deputy sheriffs seized 74 animals from a farm in southeastern Jessamine County. The owners in that case said the 2007 drought had dried up their pasture but said they had continued to feed the animals hay and corn.

Dane said the Humane Society is working to find sources of hay where it is plentiful and move it to where it's needed, but he said horse owners must also take action, reports the newspaper.

"Horse owners need to plan now, and not wait until the middle of winter to start looking for hay," Dane said.

The Humane Society donated money last year to the council's Save Our Horses fund, which helps owners who are struggling to find hay and other needs for their animals, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader.

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