At the ASPCA, helping horses isn’t just something we preach—it’s something we practice in our work every single day. Intelligent, sensitive, and true American icons, horses have been at the heart of our mission since the very beginning, and in honor of our second annual National Help a Horse Day on April 26, we wanted to share the amazing story of Benny.
We first heard about Benny from our friends Joyce and Nona at Last Stop Horse Rescue in Prentiss, Maine. Last Stop is the recipient of an ASPCA grant: every three weeks, our grant funds the delivery of 20 bales of hay to Last Stop to feed the rescued horses.
We recently checked in with Last Stop, and that’s when they told us Benny’s story. Starved, emaciated and close to death, Benny arrived at Last Stop in August 2013. The four-year-old gelding showed clear signs of abuse and neglect, and was so weak that he could not stand on his own legs. The day of his arrival, he weighed just 562 pounds.
The staff at Last Stop spent several days trying to keep Benny standing, but ultimately, the best option was to place him in a sling hanging from a beam in the barn. At the recommendation of Dr. Ron Miles Benny was introduced to food slowly and in small amounts.
Slowly but surely, Benny gained strength. Over the 12 days that he was in the sling, Joyce says “we saw improvement each day with signs of brighter eyes, moving his feet more, and being able to consume more of the food that was being offered to him.” The team at Last Stop fed him every hour around the clock, setting an alarm to ensure that he got meals throughout the night as well.
After nearly two weeks in a sling, Benny stood for the first time on August 15. It was a joyous day for all involved.
It has now been over six months since Benny arrived at Last Stop. He currently weighs 930 pounds, and uses his newfound strength to gallop around the pasture with his fellow horses. Despite years of abuse and neglect, Joyce says, “Benny is our miracle boy. Food and love was all he needed.”
Stories like Benny’s are what inspired us to create National Help a Horse Day. All too often, these amazing animals are mistreated, neglected, or even sent to slaughter. The ASPCA is determined to spread education and activism on behalf of equines everywhere, and Benny is proof that every horse is worth helping. Looking back at Benny’s recovery, Joyce says, “This is what you have done for these horses with the grant from the ASPCA. Thank you!”
To see Benny in action, please watch Last Stop Horse Rescue’s video of his recovery. Be sure to visit our Help a Horse page for information about events in your community. The ASPCA is awarding $10,000 grants to the top five equine organizations whose events inspire the most community engagement and support.
We are happy to announce that the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation today approved the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, S. 1406, by voice vote. This important step paves the way for an eventual floor vote in the Senate.
The PAST Act, introduced in the Senate by Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Mark Warner (D-VA), will amend the federal Horse Protection Act (HPA) to better protect horses from abusive “soring”—the practice of purposely inflicting severe pain in horses’ legs and hooves to force them into an unnatural, high-stepping gait (walk). Specifically, the PAST Act will improve inspections at Tennessee Walking Horse shows, increase penalties for soring a horse, and ban the use of cruel “action devices,” the heavy chains and stacked shoes that exacerbate the pain for sored horses.
A recently introduced “alternative” bill purports to address the problem of horse soring, but instead would have the effect of forever institutionalizing it. The alternative bill would do nothing to improve horse welfare—it would merely maintain the status quo. The ASPCA supports the PAST Act as the only Congressional bill that will make the reforms needed to end horse soring.
It is time to clean up the U.S. horse racing industry by passing the federal Horseracing Integrity & Safety Act (HISA), H.R. 2012/S. 973. Introduced by Representatives Joe Pitts (R-PA) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) in the House, and Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) in the Senate, this bill will ban performance-enhancing drugs in U.S. horse racing and designate the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) as the governing body to create and oversee the implementation of uniform medication rules to protect horse welfare. The Jockey Club recently acknowledged the importance of this bill and agreed that the USADA “has the experience, the knowledge and the credibility to bring much-needed integrity to our sport.”
Great news! President Obama’s newly released FY 2015 budget proposal once again includes a request for Congress to block spending by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to inspect U.S. horse slaughter plants. If adopted, this prohibition would effectively ban horse slaughter on U.S. soil through September 2015 because only USDA-inspected meat can be sold for human consumption.
The President’s request reflects the will of the Congress, whose FY 2014 spending bill, passed in January, included the same language. (The inspection-defund language was initially introduced in the House and Senate by Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) and Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) as an amendment to the FY 2014 Agriculture appropriations bill.) However, the FY 2014 spending bill expires this September, which is why it’s critical to get the measure extended via the FY 2015 budget.
“We are grateful to the White House and USDA for their continued leadership in ensuring that American horses are not slaughtered on our own soil for foreign demand, especially in light of the recent news from Europe about the horrors of discovering horse meat mixed with frozen lasagna and other meat products,” says Nancy Perry, Senior Vice President of ASPCA Government Relations. “Wasting tax dollars on the cruelty of horse slaughter makes no sense, and we urge Congress to once again adopt this provision.”
Help us ensure that Capitol Hill hears the message to protect our horses, both here and abroad! The pro-slaughter industry will lobby intensely against this newest effort to prohibit federal dollars from being spent on horse slaughter, and our goal is to stop all American horses from experiencing the horrors of slaughter wherever it occurs, so we must continue to press for passage of the SAFE Act to ban horse slaughter permanently.
If horses could speak, there are at least 16 who would thank ASPCA responder Bryan Hayes for his patience and compassion.
Bryan was one of nearly a dozen responders with the ASPCA’s Field Investigations and Response (FIR) team assisting Spokane County Regional Animal Protective Services (SCRAPS) in Washington State with the sheltering and daily care of 63 horses seized during an animal cruelty investigation. Discovered on an abandoned property in November 2013, many of the horses were severely emaciated and dehydrated, with no access to water.
When Bryan arrived at the Spokane County fairgrounds, temperatures hovered between 13 and 18 degrees. The majority of the horses had been placed in outdoor paddocks; others were in nearby stalls. Eleven, in critical condition, were taken to a local veterinarian for immediate medical attention. There were 16 yearling colts who refused to be touched.
“They were flighty and would run from you,” Bryan says. “Our task was to get halters on those horses and inventory them—give them numbers and take their photos.”
That’s where Bryan’s expertise came in.
He and other ASPCA staff and responders worked with one horse at a time. After each horse was in its own paddock, Bryan used a broom as an extension of his arm to slowly pet each horse.
“They would stand for that,” he says. “Then I would replace the broom with my hand. All the horses seemed to calm down.”
In addition to haltering many of the Spokane herd, Bryan trimmed hooves, some that were splitting, including those of an emaciated mare who had to be sedated. Because so many horses were close to starvation, Bryan speculates more would have died were it not for the intervention of SCRAPS and the ASPCA.
The majority (47) horses were placed with adopters, foster families or rescue groups, and boarding facilities, and the ASPCA continues to provide support for boarding costs and re-homing the last remaining horses.
Local authorities issued a warrant for the arrest of property owner Janice Hickerson on charges of animal cruelty. Her whereabouts remain unknown.
Bryan, a farrier by trade, also handled logistics at the temporary shelter in Florida where more than 200 dogs seized in a multi-state dog fighting raid in August 2013 are being housed and cared for by ASPCA responders. Over the past three years, Bryan has also assisted the ASPCA as a consultant in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, among other natural disasters and animal cruelty cases.
Bryan has experience working with various types of animals, but horses have always been part of his life. Bryan cared for his first pony for more than 20 years, and is now the guardian of two dogs and a 9-year-old American saddlebred named Captain.
The ASPCA is grateful for all of Bryan’s assistance in many of our crucial rescue efforts. To learn more about the ASPCA’s work to end equine cruelty, visit our Fight Cruelty section.
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