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Humane Alternatives for unwanted and
in-crisis horses in Montana

There are many humane options for helping unwanted and in-crisis horses in Montana. Horse slaughter is unacceptable and inhumane for many reasons. Unwanted horses are a serious issue and we must continue to expand our thinking outside of the “slaughter” box.

The unwanted horse issue is exacerbated by the current economic crisis but there have always been unwanted horses in Montana and owners who cannot afford the horses they have, thus putting these horses into the category of “in-crisis.” Horse owners who no longer want their horses face the problem of finding a new home for their animal. Horse owners who decide to euthanize a horse must pay for this service and dispose of the body. Financially strapped horse owners may face an inability to pay for feed or need to quickly find a new home for their horse.

Issue: Humane euthanasia and carcass disposal

Humane Alternatives: Euthanasia by a vet, either via injection or by gunshot. The fee in Montana for euthanasia averages from $150 – $225. Burial and removal costs vary from $25 in a county landfill to $300 in a pet cemetery. Additionally, there are backhoe operators who will bury dead horses – their fees vary. Proper disposal of a horse body is required by law and varies by county and city. For the horse owner who must euthanize their horse but cannot afford the fee, financial help is available from Montana Horse Sanctuary of Helena and Willing Servants of Hamilton.

Issue: Owner does not want to euthanize horse but rather find a new home for horse due to loss of interest in horse or financial inability to continue caring for horse

Humane Alternatives: Qualified horse sanctuary, rescue organization, veterinary clinics and individual rescuers. A wide variety of well-qualified and properly funded horse rescue operations exist in Montana. A quick search of the web or a call to a veterinarian will provide a horse owner with contacts and information. Horse rescue is a fast-growing segment of horse culture and in Montana provides humane alternatives for hundreds, if not thousands, of horses every year. Additionally, equine therapeutic programs accept horses and train them to provide therapy to people with physical, mental and emotional disabilities. Horses find homes with 4-H clubs, pony clubs and university programs. And, many horse owners sell their horses through private sale.

Long-term Solutions to the Unwanted and In-Crisis horse issue:

Education of horse owners: In many cases horses become unwanted or in-crisis because their owners are uninformed about proper care, over breeding and training. Many opportunities for on-going education about horses are available through horse sanctuaries, rescue organizations, horse clubs, the extension service, and veterinarians. For owners who want to reduce their herds to manageable levels, gelding of stallions is an affordable option. The Small Business Administration offers assistance to small business owners, including breeders, who want to investigate the profitability of their operation. Humane Society of the United States offers assistance to some horse owners who want to curtail breeding via a short-term birth control program for mares. Responsible breeders limit the number of foals they produce according to the market and build a buffer into their business budget to care for or humanely euthanize horses with disabilities or serious defects. Some large breeding ranches are now allowing outsiders to lease a mare (though she stays at the owner’s ranch the entire time), choose the stallion to breed to, then get the foal at weaning. It is this type of creativity that will change the industry in a positive and more responsible direction.

Helping horse owners in temporary financial crisis: No matter how good or bad the economy, some horse owners will at one time or another find themselves in temporary financial difficulty. These owners are encouraged to apply for hay and euthanasia grants from organizations including Montana Horse Sanctuary, Willing Servants and HSUS.

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Montana Horse Sanctuary
P.O. Box 10, Simms, MT 59477 • (406) 264-5300