Why Do People Abuse Horses?

Some people think they need to have extreme power and control over other living things. While teaching a dog to heel or teaching a horse to ride requires control, it doesn’t require whips and chains. Starving animals to death, or leaving them chained to a tree for months and years, are examples of an unhealthy need to dominate.

Sometimes it isn’t domination. Sometimes it’s just a lack of knowledge. The beautiful pony bought by a family for their child requires a lot of knowledge and care. When that knowledge isn’t there, when the “pleasure” becomes too much work or the dream of owning a horse is replaced by the realities of ownership, the horse suffers. Lack of knowledge about the proper food, water and medical care spells a slow and painful death, as does the owner who knows little about training, who becomes frustrated and angry, striking out with physical abuse that can permanently injure or kill.

“What Exactly Is Abuse?”

Each state has its own laws governing “abuse and neglect.” Some are very strict, while others just give a minimal definition and leave it up to the law enforcement officer to make a judgment. Not too many years ago it was legal to tie a horse up and beat them half to death. Even now, a lot of people just turn their back when it happens.

Starvation is the biggest complaint we receive, followed by neglect. Most of the cases we work on are obvious, but others require testimony from witnesses who are sometimes reluctant to get involved. It’s a sad commentary on our society when abuse and neglect, whether of a horse or a child, goes unreported because, “I didn’t want to bother anyone.”

There are counties in Texas that work closely with nonprofits in enforcing animal abuse laws. Unfortunately, a lot of counties ignore the problem. Many don’t have the facilities to handle seizures, especially when large animals are involved, nor do they have the budget to feed them or provide vet care and documentation. There are answers to these problems but, until there is an organized effort to look at those answers, the status quo will remain.

How Seizures Work

It might be a call from a police officer or a concerned neighbor: “I just saw a horse who looks like a bag of bones. Can you help?”

Nonprofit animal welfare agencies in Texas don’t have the power to conduct seizures. We work through law enforcement officers under the guidelines of city, county and state law. While we can document, file against and remove any animal who is subject to physical or mental abuse, the courts must grant us our ability to do so on a case-by-case basis.

First, we file civil charges under the direction of the court. That allows us to remove all the animals on the property immediately. Under Texas law, a hearing is held within 10 days and the judge has the authority to deliver the horses into our hands. If asked, we will then help the law enforcement agency bring criminal charges against the previous owner.