What do the phrases “open door,” “open admission,” “limited admission,” and “no-kill” mean?
Horse Plus Humane Society is an open door —or open admission—humane society. This means that we will not turn away any animal that comes to our doors. Many of these animals are healthy, good natured horses, ponies, donkeys and other large animal who are placed into our adoption program and go on to be adopted into loving, forever homes — and while there are no time limits on how long they can stay up for adoption, it will depend on the health, temperament and availability of space for safe housing.
There are, however, animals that come to our shelter who are sick, severely injured, in chronic pain, or who are too aggressive, dangerous, or behaviorally unsound to be placed up for adoption. While an open door shelter, such as ours, will give at least temporary shelter to these animals, many limited admission shelters or rescues —which sometimes call themselves “no-kill”—do not have the resources to dedicate to such animals. These rescues or shelters must make a decision as to which animals will receive their care and attention, and therefore they limit the number and type of animals they will accept into their rescue.
Many horses end up at an auction and are sold into the slaughter pipeline because they were turned away from a “no-kill” rescue. We regularly receive phone calls from desperate horse owners who tell us they have called every other rescue and were told the same thing: “Sorry, we are full.” We are their last option before sending them to a slaughter auction. Limited admission rescues may choose not to help the animals that have health and/or behavioral issues. It is Horse Plus Humane Society’s belief that no animal should be turned away, that no horse should enter the slaughter pipeline, just because the animal is unadoptable.
Limited Admission rescues choose whether or not they bring horses into their rescue that need urgent medical care and long term rehabilitation. We accept all horses, independent of their ability to be rehabbed or not. Many times horses that come to us can be rehabilitated but sometimes they cannot. In this case, we strongly believe that humane euthanasia is the only humane alternative to an existence of suffering and pain or of being shipped to slaughter.
Some people think that there is no difference between a horse being slaughtered or being euthanized, but there is a big difference. A horse shipped to slaughter has a horrible future. It spends days inside a semi trailer with no food or water, crammed full of other horses on their way to slaughter. Stallions have their mouths wired shut and are crammed into the trailer full of mares and geldings. If they slip and fall in the trailer, as they often do, they can be trampled to death. If they do survive the long trip to the slaughter house they have a most horrible, painful death awaiting them. In Mexico they are stabbed on the top of their neck with a sharp knife, called a puntilla, until the spinal nerve is severed that controls their back legs. Unable to get away they are hoisted up and their throats cut. They are alive, unsedated and fully conscious through the whole time until they bleed out. In Canada they are shot with a gun, but even this is cruel and inhumane as many times they are shot repeatedly before the killer manages to deliver the fatal shot. They are often shot in the eyes, nasal cavity and neck as they swing their head in a desperate attempt to escape the gunman. Slaughter is horrible, cruel, painful, and is completely inhumane every step of the way.
While the phrase “No-Kill Rescue” can stir many emotions in people, it can also be very confusing and misunderstood. There are many good rescues that call themselves “no-kill,” just as there are many fine shelters that are “open door.” Ultimately, much of the confusion about “no-kill” stems from the fact that there is no universally accepted definition of the term. One organization’s idea of no-kill can vary widely from another. One organization will classify themselves as “No-Kill” while euthanizing a majority of the animals that come to their shelter for “behavioral or medical reasons” while a truly no-kill organization often warehouses animals in cramped living conditions for years and years until they die a long, lingering natural death. Therefore, it is important to look into the issues surrounding the thoughts of no-kill in order to understand the ways in which organizations help animals.
Horse Plus Humane Society believes in saving the greatest number of horses from the slaughter pipeline with our available resources. As such, we will accept any horses that come to our open doors or that we can pull out of the slaughter pipeline. We place every animal we can into our adoption program where they are adopted by loving, forever homes. We provide rehabilitation, care and training for those animals that may need some extra care and attention before they are adoptable. We utilize the services of rescue groups who desire horses to be transferred to them, at no cost to the rescue other than transportation. They receive a fully evaluated, microchipped, vaccinated and dewormed horse for free. The reality is that, due to the overwhelming volume of horses and large animals coming into our shelter, healthy adoptable animals may be euthanized due to space constraints, but it is very rare that a healthy, good, rideable horse is euthanized. In fact, many “no-kill” rescues also euthanize horses because of severe health or behavioral issues.
The problem of euthanasia doesn’t lie within the definition or philosophy of the animal shelter or rescue. Whether open-admission or limited admission, the fact is that there are still more horses than homes due to overbreeding. The ultimate responsibility for the numbers of euthanized animals lies at the hands of the breeders, from the back yard “I want a baby horse for Christmas” to the industrial Thoroughbred breeders looking for that 1 fast horse out of hundreds bred and born every year. In addition, lack of commitment, lack of education and lack of investment in one’s personal animal all contribute to the euthanasia rate. No animal shelter or rescue is the ’cause’ of euthanasia, but rather the sad ‘result.’ However sad humane euthanasia may be, compared to the horrors of slaughter, it is the Last Act of Kindness.
In the end, it is not words or phrases that help animals but actual efforts, programs, and individuals. You may ask: “Why don’t you rehabilitate every animal and simply end euthanasia?” Unfortunately the reality is that some horses are unhealthy and untreatable. This means they are suffering from a disease, injury, congenital or hereditary condition that adversely affects the horse’s health either now or in the future. Some may have a behavioral or temperamental characteristic that poses a health or safety risk to themselves or others. The seriously ill animals are not likely to become healthy even if provided with care and treatment and dangerous animals must not be placed in the adoption program; these are the animals who should be euthanized to minimize suffering or for the safety of the public.
You may say: “I can’t support an organization that euthanizes horses.” Horse Plus Humane Society does not want horses to be euthanized. Horse Plus Humane Society works diligently to get adoptions, teach and encourage responsible pet ownership, and provide rehabilitation to save lives. We make every effort to find new homes for the horses and other animals that are in our adoption program. We offer low cost gelding programs to help reduce the number of unwanted horses at the source. Horse Plus Humane Society does everything we can to keep horses from the horrors of the slaughter pipeline. Unfortunately, until there are enough homes for all the horses who are born each year, and until there are no longer any sick, injured, aggressive, or dangerous horses, euthanasia will still be a reality, a humane reality. Horses dying from old age in a pasture or pen is not a humane ending usually as they lie thrashing on the ground for several days, too weak to get up for food and water. It is this reality that is the responsibility of an open admission shelter. Simply turning a blind eye to these horses and merely pronouncing that they will not enter the slaughter pipeline and be tortured to death, is not acceptable. Tirelessly working toward more animal adoptions, furthering pregnancy prevention, horse rehabilitation, and educating the public will reduce the necessity of humane euthanasia. If horse breeders would cut breeding back just 10%, the 150,000 horses that are shipped out of the United States to slaughter yearly would not exist. Just 10% reduction in breeding lies between 150,000 horses being brutally murdered each year, and none.
Horse Plus Humane Society believes in helping the greatest number of horses with the resources we have. This is why our services are so wide and varied: Extreme Rescue Makeover competition, National Low-Cost Gelding Program, National Last Act of Kindness Program and more. Currently we provide rehabilitation and training to help animals become adoptable at our shelter. Our dedicated staff advises and counsels owners who are having behavioral issues with their animals, with the goal of keeping these animals in the good home they already have.
What can you do? If you are looking to add a horse or two to your home, adopt from a reputable shelter or rescue. A good rescue or shelter will have an on-site trainer to evaluate and correct any behavioral or training issues the horse you are interested in adopting may have, and be able to fully inform you of the horse’s temperament and training level before you adopt. Encourage others to adopt from a shelter or rescue and have their animals spayed/neutered and have their stallions gelded.
You can also help in a very real way by donating to Horse Plus Humane Society to help us with our life-saving and cruelty preventing work. If you don’t like that we euthanize horses and think it’s a waste of resources to rescue horses from auctions that need euthanasia to end their chronic pain and suffering, we hope that understanding the horrors of the slaughter pipeline will help you rethink your position.