Last year, 125,000 American horses were shipped to Canada and Mexico to be slaughtered for human consumption. The majority of them were healthy horses who could have gone on to live long lives, but were redirected to advance a cruel, predatory industry that continues to prey on American horses even though it cannot legally operate here.
Being sold for slaughter is one of the many challenges U.S. horses face to merely live their lives free of abuse and suffering. But hope can be found in the homes and hearts of millions of Americans ready and willing to protect them. According to a recent survey, 2.3 million American households say they have adequate space, resources, and strong interest in adopting a horse, and many are doing just that with the help of equine rescues and sanctuaries around the country.
To raise awareness about these everyday heroes and inspire more, the ASPCA created Help a Horse Day, a nationwide grant competition for equine rescues and sanctuaries, shedding light on their lifesaving year-round work to care for at-risk horses. Now in its third year, the celebration featured 187 groups, twice as many as last year.
Actress and horse advocate Beth Behrs, star of “2 Broke Girls”, helped the campaign and this cause by spreading the word about the importance of supporting local rescues and encouraging horse owners to always make adoption their first option.
Winning this year’s Grand Prize, including a grant of $25,000, is Equine Voices Rescue & Sanctuary of Green Valley, Arizona. Demonstrating their dedication and creativity, Equine Voices launched a “30 Days/30 Ways to Help Horses” social media campaign and held three public events over the Help a Horse Day weekend. These events, which drew a total of 1,200 attendees, included a spring festival in Amado, AZ which attracted 700 people – more than twice the town’s population. By the end of April, Equine Voices had adopted out a remarkable 19 horses.
Horses play an enormous role in American culture and history, including our own. In 1866, ASPCA founder Henry Bergh stopped a cart driver from beating his horse, resulting in the first-ever successful arrest for horse mistreatment on April 26. To recognize this important milestone, we now celebrate ASPCA Help a Horse Day each year on April 26. This year’s event is especially significant, taking place in the ASPCA’s 150 anniversary year.
Whether you ride horses, own them, or just love them, I urge you to play a part in their protection through adoption, donations, volunteering, or advocacy. Learn about how legislation like the SAFE Act can keep these animals permanently protected from slaughter anywhere in the world.
We’ve always relied on horses; now’s their turn to count on us.
Matthew Bershadker is President and CEO of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which celebrates its 150th birthday this year.