Friday, May 1, 2009

The Internet and Horse Rescue - friend or foe?

Quick note on the Three Strikes Ranch mustangs - we do have a web site and horse listings will start appearing on the message board as the weekend goes on. Horses are currently being photographed. Homes are needed, temporary boarding is needed if you're within a few hours of Alliance, and rides are needed if you're willing to haul or are picking one up yourself and want to fill the trailer.

Now on to today's topic...

Video Interview with Alex Brown (long and yes, there is sound so not work safe)

Check it out if you're interested in the whole topic of the Internet's involvement in horse rescue. Until I started reading TB Friends and Perez Hilton, I thought all blogs were was online diaries - and I found that idea ludicrous. The whole point of a diary is talking to yourself. It's a private place to share your feelings and mull them over. Why would you want to put that out there for the internet to rip apart and trash? I didn't get it. But I was behind the curve - I really didn't realize for a long time that there were blogs that served not as diaries, but as editorial pages. Once I did realize that, I found many that I enjoyed reading and started to see that it was some of the most interesting reading on the 'net.

This blog started merely as a way to vent to and entertain my horsey friends. I never had a plan. I never thought it would get this popular. I still don't have a plan. I probably should have a plan, LOL!

I have to laugh where he says you can't have really good conversations when people are giving you 500 responses to a blog post and they are wandering all over on every topic. Sound familiar? Still, I think it works fine here for the most part. If you don't already know how to multitask, you'll learn reading these comments!

I have never worried about links drawing traffic away from my blog. I think that's kind of funny, actually. I mean, if your content is interesting, why wouldn't people come back? It never occurred to me that people fear that a link will "steal" their traffic and that some people avoid links to other sites to "keep" their traffic. I think that's hilarious. I actually love it when you guys find other good stuff via this blog, like WWHM and Cake Wrecks. It's just more for us to talk about!

Alex describes his site as providing a medium for fundraising. You all know I have issues with the lack of quality control. I understand that from a legal perspective, you're always safer with no standards than some standards. If you kick off Suzy's Rescue, but let Bertha's equally questionable rescue keep begging for funds, you are likely to get sued by Suzy. Still, I come back to the idea that on some level, you're morally if not legally responsible when you allow fundraising on your site. I make my best effort not to plug anything that I'm not 99% sure is legit. I'm sure that's not foolproof, but I do my best. Like with the Nebraska horses, hey, I was there...everybody was working their tails off and donations were going to the horses.

Here's what I like about ABR: I like that someone in the racing industry is working so hard against slaughter and that he's aggressively using the media to do so. I can't fault that at all. I agree with him 100% that the horses need a voice and that the Internet is doing a great job of educating the public on these issues and that is what will ultimately make things better for horses.

Here's what I don't like: he notes that most of his audience are older women (his demographics are quite different from ours), many of whom are not internet savvy and not used to the message boards and the whole culture and (he doesn't say this but I do) are therefore fairly easy scam targets. These people have been victimized a lot at this point. The tone over there has changed - they are far more cautious now. And that's a good thing. I think in general, his readership is starting to figure out how to protect themselves and their money online.

The Internet has provided an amazing way to spread awareness of issues. It's a great place to fundraise. But there are negatives as well. I do see the good rescues getting harrassed by small angry groups of jealous competing rescuers or by people they refused adoption to. Most of these efforts are so transparently silly that I assume no one would take them seriously - but I'm sure they do some harm. (Conversely, I am always amazed when people get upset over getting trashed based upon information they themselves put out there. If you're going to post the video on youtube showing how you tied a horse to a mounting block and he took off running with it chasing him and jumped a fence, do not be surprised when you end up as feature
material on FHOTD. Had you kept that to yourself, I wouldn't know about it. The fact that you apparently think it's cool enough to brag about to the Internet earns you a place here as much as the action itself!)

i always ultimately think that the truth will out, and that it's not possible for a small group to effectively destroy a good rescue no matter how much they post about it. Twenty years ago, the only way ANY charity got questioned is if they screwed up so badly they got featured on 60 Minutes or something. So there were plenty of groups that laughed all the way to the bank and then just disappeared, leaving donors unable to find them much less take action against them. Thanks to the Internet, it's harder for the scammers to hide. Even when they move and rename their group, someone pops up and says "HEY, that's you-know-who with the cruelty convictions in Oregon, she's at it again!" Now, that is a very good thing about the 'net.

Rescue is very different than it was before the Internet age. I think of how many horses I have now been able to help just because the Internet allowed me to find out they were in need. However, that's harder emotionally than the days when all I worried about was the much smaller group of horses coming through the kill buyers in my neighborhood. The constant e-mails about horses WHO ARE GOING TO DIE TOMORROW IF YOU DON'T HELP THEM! are hard on experienced rescuers, not just kindhearted donors. The Internet has probably been a major factor in creating hoarders out of people who can't say no - but simply weren't exposed to as many horses in
need in the past. I know more than one person who has over-donated to a rescue to the point where they put themselves in financial jeopardy. Now, those issues always existed - you will find people who sent their whole retirement to the 700 Club before the Internet existed - but it just seems like it happens so much more in the online world (or is it that we hear about it more? chicken/egg...)

I think the Internet is, overall, a good thing in the world of animal rescue. I just think everybody needs to have their eyes open at all times and their credit cards frozen in a block of ice in the refrigerator so they can't impulse donate too much! Hey, I'm as guilty as anybody else - I DID pay almost $600 plus quarantine ($150) and shipping ($700) to acquire a CBER mare that I saw online one night at 3 AM three years ago - one that arrived with about half vision in one eye and none in the other. I'm not saying I'm smarter than anybody else - I've just already been through the burned-and-learned process.

Our Friday Featured Rescue is a re-rescue. Yes, another horse who was placed by a rescuer who dropped the ball leading to the horse being found in the kill pen YET again. SOS Equines pulled him and he's looking for a good home. I hope one of you is looking for a sweet draft cross gelding and can ensure he NEVER sees a kill pen again!

"Castle is a 3-4 year old gelding. He is supposed to have 15 rides on him. I don't know who started him but they weren't kind. He has open cinch sores & looks like he was worked really hard for a young horse. We didn't ride him given he only had 15 rides. He is super gentle on the ground & LOVED the attention Kelli gave him. He is scared & trying hard to make friends at the feedlot. He has big bone & will make someone a nice BIG horse someday."

Contact SOS Equines (banner below) for information about how to adopt Castle. He is in eastern Washington and they do adopt out of state.