Horses in New Jersey are highly regarded. When designating the horse as New Jersey’s state animal in 1977 Governor Bryne said: “The founding fathers of our state thought so highly of the horse that they included it in our state seal.”
In New Jersey, as specified in the Humane Standards, equine rescue operations must provide care “consistent with the “AAEP Care Guidelines for Equine Rescue and Retirement Facilities” or “Equine Rescue and Facility Guidelines, UC Davis.” N.J.A.C. §2:8-3.6.
Both resources provide comprehensive
guidelines to help ensure that horses maintained within equine sanctuaries and rescue farms receive adequate and proper care. The guidelines . . . address all issues related to sanctuary management and operations. They provide information on proper facility design construction and maintenance, suggestions for management and financial organization and instructions on the proper husbandry practices and health care necessary to ensure the successful operations of all types of sanctuary and rescue facilities.
The first section of the UC Davis Guidelines is titled “Operation Business and Financial Plan” emphasizing the importance proper planning and financial support, noting:
The failure rate among animal sanctuaries of all types within the United States is known to be very high, with an average lifespan estimated to be around 3 years and a failure rate in excess of 70% for those facilities that do not own the land being utilized for their operation. Most of these failures can be attributed to one of two causes; the financial collapse of the entity due to poor business planning and/or practices, or the lack of a defined plan of succession for key management personnel.
AAEP’s Guidelines include the following chapters:
Chapter I: Basic Health Management
Chapter II: Nutrition
Chapter III: Basic Hoof Care
Chapter IV: Caring for the Geriatric Horse
Chapter V: Shelter, Stalls & Horse Facilities
Chapter VI: Pastures, Paddocks & Fencing
Chapter VII: Euthanasia
Chapter VIII: The Bottom Line: Welfare of the Horse.
The importance of caring for new horses entering a rescue facility should include a complete physical examination, a method of identification, the establishment of a medical record, proper nutritional assessments and preventive medical care. Special attention to the nutritional needs of previously starving horses is critical, and recommendations include oversight by veterinarians and veterinary nutritionists to ensure that the appropriate type, amount and frequency of feeding is provided.
If horses are provided too much feed too quickly after starvation, death can ensue. According to UC Davis “[t]he ‘refeeding syndrome’ has been reported in horses with abrupt refeeding of concentrated calories causing death in 3 days.”
Despite these requirements, there is no indication that there is sufficient oversight in New Jersey over equine rescue facilities.
The State permits but does not require registration of animal rescue organizations and facilities.
4:19-15.33 Registry of animal rescue organizations, facilities
a. The Department of Health shall establish a registry of animal rescue organizations and their facilities in the State. Any animal rescue organization may voluntarily participate in the registry.
b.The department, pursuant to the “Administrative Procedure Act,” P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.), may adopt any rules and regulations determined necessary to implement the voluntary registry and coordinate its use with the provisions of P.L.2011, c.142 (C.4:19-15.30 et al.) and section 16 of P.L.1941, c.151 (C.4:19-15.16).
Of the 74 registered rescues as of March 16, 2017, none appear to be equine rescue facilities.
Historically, when large numbers of horses in the state have been the subject of animal cruelty investigations, their care has been improperly supervised.
Recent events reveal that nothing has changed.
It is time that the State, with its depth of talented, experienced equine practitioners, animal scientists and veterinary nutritionists at Rutgers University and Centenary College, and the Certified Livestock Inspectors at the NJDA-Division of Animal Health, take a hard look at the current state of affairs for horses in need of care in the Garden State.