Monday, April 8, 2019

Emergency of Horses

       Emergency of Horses

        Horses are majestic, powerful, and a beautiful sight to see. Grazing in fields, performing for us, providing therapy beyond what we thought we needed. They open up the world, and make us become honest with ourselves and others, teach us respect for all life, and true teamwork. You cannot force a horse to do anything, no matter what you think; they will do what they choose, and trying to force otherwise will teach a lesson either way. You might get the horse to cooperate through fear, but you then must live with knowing you broke their spirit, and see the emotions of fear, mistrust, and pain in their eyes. You might even get taught a lesson of fear and pain yourself, if they choose to lash out in anger. Why would you want either scenario, when the beauty of understanding and trust between human and 1,000 pound animal is so much more rewarding? When you tire of them, or your life changes, most will try to sell them, and find a good home for them, but what about the ones who don't, or can't? What happens to those horses?

The Unwanted Ones

        In 2007, a study found that there was an average of 170,000 horses that were labeled "unwanted" per year, that number was even higher in 2015, over 200,000. Another study found that per year, an average of 150,000 horses are being exported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter, or bought by "kill buyers" for food processing. That means almost 90% of unwanted horses each year are slaughter-bound, regardless of age, breeding, or health. A large part of the problem is a lack of resources and space at rescues, causing many to go to auctions where the kill buyers can buy them for rock bottom prices and make a profit selling to slaughterhouses. Auctions do not monitor or stop this process, they simply look to make their percentage. Unfortunately, horses are not cheap, and difficult for most to afford, and for some people the thought of being able to say they own such a beautiful animal is thought on more than the reality of horse ownership, their or their child's level of commitment to the lifestyle, and the cost of care. This creates a problem when the need to sell is higher than the people in the community's need for each new horse brought into the world. The definition of an "unwanted" horse is simply one that has, for various reasons, become unwanted or needed by their owner.

Causes for Horses becoming Unwanted

        The top 5 reasons for horses earning the label of "unwanted" are: affordability, older age or injury of the horse, manageability(behavioral issues), loss of owner interest, or a change in the owners employment. With the economy struggle, it is understandable that owners lose the ability to afford horses, or do not have the time commitment if they have to change jobs, they are not as cheap or easy to care for as a dog or a cat. However, that does not excuse their responsibility to attempt to find a home or other solution for their horse's care. Since 2007, there has been a rise in investigations of neglect or abuse and more abandoned horses than previously ever recorded. The other 3 causes for a horse becoming unwanted, which are behavioral issues, age or injury affecting use of the horse for riding or pulling a cart or buggy, and a loss of interest, have absolutely no excuse for neglect, abuse or abandonment, in fact, none of the reasons have a valid excuse. Horses, and the equestrian life, are a lifelong passion, not a hobby. Before you acquire a horse, like any other pet, you should seriously consider your commitment level for the life of the horse, which can average up to 30 years. Just because they become injured or old, does not mean you should get rid of them, considering the amount of time your horse was useful and therapeutic to you, either through showing or pleasure use. Like all other pets, horses deserve to stay with the people they love and trust, until it is time for them to leave us in death. If you are not sure horses will hold a lifetime interest for you, consider just taking lessons or leasing a horse rather than full-time ownership. In the case of behavior issues, seek the help of a trainer first rather than re-homing. 

Rescues and Resources

      According to the Unwanted Horse Coalition(UHC) 2009 survey,rescues are understaffed and underfunded, and over half, 63% are at or over 75% of their capacity and resource levels. They also have to turn away about 40% of the horses brought to them due to the lack of resources. Rescues largely depend on the public for staffing and funding. It was found that the majority of horse owners, and even those in the public without a horse, but a passion for them, are willing to step up efforts to assist rescues, either through donations or volunteering to increase resources. Stakeholders, such as those in the racing industry, and breeders however, are not, and even advocating for an increase in slaughter. That is irresponsible on their part. 

Solutions and Conclusion

      When it comes to solutions, the top priority indicated was owner education, and the second increasing rescue resources. It is good that there is an increased public concern for horse welfare, and the major industry issues identified. The top two issues were noted as welfare, and unacceptable training techniques. Now that we have identified the major issues and the top solutions for them, it is time we begin to implement plans to solve them.

Thank you for taking time to read our blog, and I hope you have learned a lot from this article. Please also take the time to check out the UHC's website and other resources to help our horse friends. Our next article will be on Dog Shelter and Rescue Overpopulations.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Animal Care Policies and Standard

Animal Care Guidelines

         Animal Care. The basics such as providing food, water and a roof seem pretty obvious, and simple. What more could you need to know, isn't that all of it? Basically, yes, but also no. Animal care also relates to the mental health of your pet, not just the physical health, and just like with Animal Welfare, they have rights and basic decencies, and that means going more in-depth with just what they need. Whether you keep your pet, such as a dog or cat, in your home free roaming, a small animal such as a rabbit or a gerbil in a cage, or even horses and cows on a farm, there is a lot more to animal care than you might think. In this article we'll cover Care Guidelines, and also the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare's Five Freedoms, or the "Golden Standard" of animal care. By the end of this article you'll understand just what animal care means, and be able to measure the level of which you're currently providing for your pet, and where you can improve for a better life for them, something we love, and something we have to do if we expect to provide them, and to engage ourselves with, a good life.

Animal Care Guidelines Policy

 This section outlines the basic care policies for animals, and relates to professional facilities as well as to individual owners. It will cover housing/caging requirements, food and water, and the environment you provide. Bear with me, even if these things may seem obvious, you'd be surprised what you, or someone else, may not be aware of, but really should be.

Housing or Caging:
All caging or housing systems should give animals adequate space for the number of animals it provides for, allowing for freedom of movement, normal posture position(i.e. not forcing them to be cramped up or in odd body positions in order to fit) and include an appropriate resting place for the housed species. Special accommodations may be necessary for unusual species, such as reptiles, those with unique metabolic or genetic characteristics, or special behavioral needs. Other considerations include the security of enclosures addressing safety, fear, and stress of animals; easy access to food and water; biological needs such as maintaining appropriate body temperatures, allowing space for bathroom needs, timely waste removal and preventing unnecessary production, a big issue in today's society overrun with more animals than we can properly provide for as a society; avoiding unnecessary physical restraint(i.e chaining or unable to move); and allowing animals to engage in normal species behavior. If animals are housed outdoors, they should have access to shelter from the elements, the housing system should allow easy inspection of the animal(s) and easy access to maintain feeding and watering requirements. All cages and housing should be repaired as necessary to prevent injury, maintain their physical comfort, and allow sanitation and servicing. Rough or uncoated wire flooring should be avoided, as it can cause foot and skin trauma, and you should also attempt to maximize separation between spaces for resting, bathroom and food/water needs. Speaking of, our next section addresses food and water.

Food and Water:
Animals should be fed edible and nutritionally adequate food daily, according to their needs and in amounts sufficient to provide normal growth and maintenance of normal body weight. They should have access to fresh. potable, uncontaminated drinking water, and watering devices such as automatic waterers and bottles should be examined regularly to ensure they work properly and are clean. Food and water should never be withheld, except at a veterinarian's instructions such as a health or surgery reason.

Temperature, humidity, ventilation and lighting should be adjusted appropriately for the specific needs of the housed animal species. If climatic conditions pose a threat to an animals health, you should take measures to improve conditions for them as soon as possible. Noise activities that cause undue stress on an animal should be minimized as much as possible, or the animal relocated to an area of your home to minimize and relieve stress. If animals are housed together, consider and observe behavior and social interactions to make sure there is no fighting or harm caused to the animals. Provide species appropriate environmental enrichment such as toys, and opportunities for play and other enrichment, as well as human interaction, on a regular basis. 

Pet Care Golden Standard

     The Pet Care Golden Standard is provided by the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare, and is the base of animal welfare/care and outlines pet rights. Termed "The Five Freedoms", it provides education for owners and humanity alike of our responsibility to animals. We have a duty to not just our pets, but all living beings, to ensure none suffer unnecessarily in their life, and this includes reporting inhumane situations we observe others being subjected to by notifying the proper authorities of abuse or neglect we see. The "Five Freedoms" we originally developed in 1965, and was an effort by the UK Farm Animal Welfare Council to address concerns about livestock treatment, but quickly became the standard for all animals, and an assessment tool for rescues and shelters of an animal's physical and mental state. The following is an outline of those Five Freedoms and what they mean.

Freedom From Hunger and Thirst:
Seems pretty self-explanatory right? It's also a standard for human welfare, unsurprisingly. This is a basic "duh" of animal care, but this standard takes it a step further. It states "Freedom from hunger and thirst by ready access to fresh water and food to maintain full health and vigor." This means not over or underfeeding our pet, and making sure they're receiving every nutrient they need. Human food is not an acceptable diet for your pet and can even pose a danger to their health. A simple talk with your vet can determine just what your pet's dietary needs are to maximize the years, and health of your pet. It is also important to clean their food and water bowls on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

Freedom from Discomfort:
By providing an appropriate environment, including shelter from weather and a comfortable resting place, you provide your pet with this care standard. While keeping your pet outdoors all the time isn't recommended, or the best option, you must at least provide them a place that protects them from extreme weather and predators, and along with providing the other freedoms, some pets can still have a comfortable and fulfilling life outdoors. If indoors, a nice, soft bed, either yours or their own, fulfills this standard.

Freedom from Pain, Injury, or Disease
Either by prevention, or fast vet care for diagnosis and treatment, our pets have a right to be as free of pain and sickness as possible, just like us. Regular vaccinations and check-ups with your vet can prevent, or at least provide early detection of, many health issues and provide options for treatment. By waiting to consult your vet with concerns, you could cause unnecessary harm to your pet or severely risk their health.

Freedom to express normal behavior:
This is very important, but all to often unintentionally overlooked. Unfortunately, this can cause serious issues, and even lead to rehoming of your pet due to behavioral issues that arise from overlooking it. All pets need proper space to have freedom of movement, facilities adequate to provide their needs, and interaction with other animals of their own kind. It is critical that they have these opportunities, and enrichment for their minds and bodies as well. In the case of animals that show aggression to other animals, they still need daily human interaction and companionship.

Freedom from Fear and Distress:
This means ensuring conditions and treatment that avoid mental suffering for your pet. While our pets don't communicate with the same language we do, they do still communicate in their own way through body language and the sounds they make. By observing your pet, you can learn everything they say and the emotions they are expressing, and how they show it. You can often easily tell when your pet is stressed or afraid, and should take measures to work with them or avoid what makes them feel that way as much as possible. It will make worlds of difference to their behavior and quality of life! Something as simple as keeping your voice low around your timid dog, or taking time to make new positive associations with a dog who's afraid of something(i.e a car, bath's, certain places) using rewards and understanding more than correction methods can increase their confidence and mental well-being.

        The Five Freedoms are the care standard for animals, but really, is it so different from the human standard? Animals are not humans, but they ARE sentient beings who share this earth with us and, like us, have complex brains and feelings, and their own language, but deserve no less respect and humane treatment than we have set for ourselves as humans. They deserve a safe, healthy, and happy life, and they have shorter lives to experience that, so it is our job to make sure they do.

       Thank you for taking time to read our blog, and I hope you have learned a lot from this article. Please also take the time to read your state's law's regarding animal care, and the punishments for failing to do so. Our next article will be on the Emergency of Horses and Slaughter.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Animal Welfare Definition and Principles

"Animal Welfare is fast becoming THE major challenge of the Veterinary profession for this century" - Dr. Bernie Osborn

          Pets. According to the American Pet Product Association's 2011-2012 National Pet Owner's Survey, over 60% of households have at least one, if not more. From small animals like rabbits, guinea pigs, reptiles, and even mice, to dogs, cats, horses, and some even have cows they consider pets. For most of us, they are cherished family members, another living being we share our homes, and lives with. Sadly, some consider them as no more than objects, including our government; a symbol of status, or something to show us love or to hold power over. No matter how we view the animals we have brought into our lives, we have a moral obligation to properly care for them, and show them the respect they deserve, and that we demand; as living beings on this earth. Despite how much we love our pets, many pet owners don't know the definition, policies, standard, or principles of basic Animal Welfare. This blog is being written to outline those four parts of welfare. 

          There are numerous perspectives and personal definitions of welfare, as well as various means of measuring it, including using an animal's health or productivity, behavior, and physiological responses, but the American Veterinary Medical Association; a medical authority for the health and welfare of animals, clearly outlines a definition and eight(8) principles for welfare and a list of welfare policies. They provide various articles and information for the public on their website

         The Definition of Animal Welfare

          The definition of animal welfare, according to the AVMA is: how an animal mentally and physically copes with their living conditions. Ensuring welfare for animals is a human responsibility and consideration for all aspects of well-being, and includes: proper housing, management, nutrition, the prevention and treatment of disease, responsible care, humane handling, and, when necessary, humane euthanasia. 

          This means, when you agree to take control of an animal and bring it into your life, you also agree to make sure they are provided with everything necessary to have a healthy, safe life. Consideration of your honest ability to do so for the foreseeable future, and the expected lifespan of an animal, should be heavily considered and factored into the decision to get a pet. Of course, extenuating circumstances can occur and change your ability to care for your pet; such as loss of home or death, and cannot be foreseen, or prevented, but carefully consider all other aspects of your life and the resources available to you and for your potential pet before agreeing to take responsibility for the life of an animal. Also consider creating an emergency plan, other than abandonment or surrendering to a shelter, in the case of a life event that prevents you from continuing to care for your pet, either temporarily or permanently, such as losing your home and needing time to find a pet friendly place to live, if you become hospitalized, or, in the worst case, your death. This topic will be further covered in our "Emergency Planning for the Unexpected" article. 

The Eight(8) Animal Welfare Principles

          These eight Principles are integrated for the development and evaluation of animal welfare policies, resolutions, and actions.

  1.  The responsible use of animals for human purposes, such as companionship, food, fiber, recreation, work, education, exhibition, and research conducted for the benefit of both humans and animals, is consistent with the Veterinarians Oath.
  2.  Decisions regarding animal care, use, and welfare shall be made by balancing scientific knowledge, and professional judgement with consideration of ethical and societal values. 
  3.  Animals must be provided water, food, proper handling, health care, and an environment appropriate to their care and use, with thoughtful consideration for their species-typical biology and behavior.
  4. Animals should be cared for in ways that minimize pain, fear, stress, and suffering.
  5. Procedures related to animal housing, management, care, and use should be continuously evaluated, and when indicated, refined or replaced.
  6. Conservation and management of animal populations should be humane, socially responsible, and scientifically prudent. 
  7. Animals shall be treated with respect and dignity throughout their lives and, when necessary, provided a humane death.
  8. The veterinary profession shall continually strive to improve animal health and welfare through scientific research, education, collaboration, advocacy, and the development of legislation and regulations.
          Now, you may be asking, "why do I need to know these principles?" It's true, most of them pertain to vets and other animal care professionals, or scientists and our obligation to upkeep a standard for Animal Welfare, but I believe it is important for the general public to understand these principles, and assist in upholding the standards and ensuring those in the animal industry are being held to them. Rule #7 is especially important for all people, not just the professionals, to be aware of and uphold. Animals, just like humans, are living beings that deserve to be treated with respect and dignity for the entirety of their lives. Rules #3 and #4 relate to every person's moral and ethical obligations to the animals in their care, be it a professional or your average pet owner. Animals depend on and trust us to care for them and provide for their needs; this expectation is no different than a child or elderly relative we care for would expect, and should be taken as seriously as such. 

I hope you enjoyed this article and found it informative, the next article will be on the Guidelines of the Animal Care Policy, and the "Golden Standard" of Animal Care.