BOOKS: Horse Sanctuary

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  April 2013:

Horse Sanctuary  by Allison Milionis Photos by Karen Tweedy Holmes Universe (300 Park Avenue South,  New York,  NY  10010),  2013. 255 pages,  hardcover.  $40.00.

Horse Sanctuary offers more than 250 exquisite photos of horses at 13 facilities listed here for the interest of readers who may donate to one or more them and wonder what they look like:

The Blackburn Correctional Complex training center operated by the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation in Lexington,  Kentucky;  the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary in Hot Springs,  South Dakota; the Catskill Animal Sanctuary,  in Saugerties,  New York;  the Equine Sanctuary,  in Ojai,  California;  Equine Voices Rescue & Sanctuary,  in Green Valley,  Arizona;  Front Range Equine Rescue,  in Larkspur,  Colorado; the Horse Harbor Foundation,  in Poulsbo,  Washington;  the Last Chance Corral in Athens,  Ohio;  Lope Texas,  in Cedar Creek,  Texas;  Lucky Horse Equine Rescue,  in Bolton,  Massachusetts;  Nokota Horse Conservancy,  in Linton,  North Dakota;  Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue,  in Tehachapi,  California;  and Save Your Ass Long Ear Rescue,  in South Acworth,  New Hampshire. The accompanying text uncritically describes the work of each facility.  Horse-lovers will love it,  but Horse Sanctuary is at best just a coffee table treatment of the issues involved in horse rescue.  Several of the profiles are seriously misleading.  

For example,  at least two of the “sanctuaries” included are breeding horses,  in the name of preserving bloodlines.  Horse bloodlines are collections of family traits,  not the defining aspects of a species;  conserving a bloodline simply because it was at some point isolated enough to become distinctive has no authentic conservation value.  Meanwhile,  contributing to the surplus of horses that necessitates the existence of sanctuaries is not consistent with the mission of preventing suffering.

Several other profiled “sanctuaries” acquire horses by purchasing them at auction,  or directly from horse breeding businesses,  then rehome them out for substantial adoption fees.  This saves some horses from slaughter,  while others are slaughtered instead.  It also helps to keep horse breeding profitable, and is in gist just a specialized form of horse brokerage.

Author Allison Milionis approvingly notes that Front Range Equine Rescue gets four stars from Charity Navigator,  but fails to observe that Charity Navigator awards stars based on robotic number-crunching, which rewards organizations for making misleading IRS Form 990 filings.   Front Range Equine Rescue is among the charities that game the system by declaring direct mail expense to be program service,  in the name of public education.  If all direct mail expense is considered fundraising,  as ANIMAL PEOPLE believes it should be,  Front Range Equine Rescue has over the past seven years spent between 57% and 88% of budget on fundraising and administration.  The average for the humane field is 28%.

ANIMAL PEOPLE believes that the most valuable work of an effective animal sanctuary is public education,  but the educational work needs to be directed at ending the industries and amending the public policies that contribute to the need for sanctuaries.  Not one of the charities profiled in Horse Sanctuary often comes to our attention for equine advocacy,  yet we could quickly list many other equine sanctuaries that do,  while providing comparable care to as many animals.

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