Sunday, February 8, 2009

Dear Media: Please stop making us look like wackos


Who wrote

"Officials say the horses were removed from unsanitary conditions, where the horses had little water, insufficient food and were living in dirty stalls. But it was the cold that bothered Debbie Hay, who owns another carriage company.

We've had a brutal winter. They shouldn't be on the outside. They're animals that live--this is just not good for them," said Hay.

"The horses weren't working in a barn. It's actually quite warm in there," said an owner of one of the horses.
But officials say there was no heat in the makeshift barn.

According to trainers, horses can be in the cold, but not for days at a time.
For weeks, the horses have lived in the tent during the frigid temperatures. "

OK, I have very little doubt that if there is a history of complaints, there is a REASON for them. Most likely this company is guilty of the other things they are accused of. But when you post something as utterly moronic as the idea that horses need HEAT in the WINTERTIME, it invalidates your entire argument because - say it with me - you sound like a WACK JOB.

Horses are
designed to live in the cold. That is why they grow long coats and look like yaks in the wintertime. If we do things to prevent that coat from growing, or we cut it off, we are then charged with the responsibility of providing a fake coat - i.e. a quality blanket, waterproof if they will be living out or partially out.

A horse who is truly cold shivers just like a human who is truly cold. Horses get cold mostly from being wet and cold - i.e. being out in freezing rain conditions with no waterproof blanket or shelter to get under. If it's otherwise dry and not too windy and they have warmed water to drink, the typical horse (not senior, not special needs) is completely unaffected by zero degree temperatures. They do fine. They are not Chihuahuas.

I grew up in the Midwest - I've seen cold. Mere cold does not harm an otherwise healthy horse until you get to the point that you see in some parts of the Dakotas, Montana, etc where things happen like the ear tips freeze off from frostbite. That can happen - but at temperatures
much colder than you will ever see in downtown Chicago. Most horses, kept dry and given a windbreak and heated water to drink, will easily tolerate subzero temps...far better than the humans who have to struggle out, bundled up from head to toe, and feed them!

Where's there's smoke, there's usually some fire but this article is just silly and it makes animal welfare advocates look like lunatics to any knowledgeable horseperson. As my reader observed, "
just a week ago a Northern Chicago surburb refused felony charges against a woman that STARVED HER HORSE TO DEATH!" Good point. While I have little doubt that the carriage company cited here has some horse management issues, these horses are not starving or dying and while a tent (I assume it was one of those carport deals) may look pretty ghetto next to a barn, it does provide perfectly acceptable shelter. The horses in the news articles are good weight and appear young enough to "winter out" without consequences.

C'mon reporters...a little google search would have told you that the cold wasn't the problem here. Let's put a little effort into accuracy, shall we? As an animal welfare advocate, I'm tired of reading news stories that go, OMG the horse was COLD, or OMG the horse was DIRTY. It's freakin' February. ALL OF MY HORSES ARE DIRTY. I guarantee you, they all have mud on their hoofies - they like to go outside and coat themselves in it. I clean them up periodically and 5 minutes and one much-enjoyed roll in the filth, dirty again. There's plenty of actual abuse to report - get on it, would you? Why don't you go investigate how the prosecuted doesn't want to press charges against that asshat Cleve Wells? There's a story of some actual abuse for you - if you have enough spine to tackle it!