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Create a Safety Net For N.M.’s Equines
By Laura Bonar, Program Director, Animal Protection of New Mexico


New Mexico’s horses are in crisis. It is a crisis born of uniquely human traits: denial, apathy and tolerance for heinous pain and suffering.

The New York Times reports on its March 25 front-page “Mangled Horses, Maimed Jockeys” that horses and jockeys in New Mexico often pay with their lives for undermined oversight, lax penalties and drug violations. But horse suffering in New Mexico runs deeper than the racetracks.

The Albuquerque Journal reports on March 28 “Horses Hurt, Starving” with graphic images of emaciated and injured horses at the Southwest Livestock Auction.

And on the same page, “Slots and Safety and N.M. Tracks” articulates the high stakes finances that have effectively driven basic concerns for safety and humane treatment into the ground.

Animal Protection of New Mexico began to see an increase in calls related to equines on its statewide animal cruelty hotlines, simultaneous with the economic downturn.

The lack of a statewide safety net for horses and their families in tough times, confusion about who is responsible for enforcing existing animal cruelty laws, and lack of state laws that clearly make extreme animal neglect a serious crime made horses suffer all the more.

Resistance to change has been rampant.

Animal Protection of New Mexico has reported to authorities horse carcasses dumped on the side of the road, doping at racetracks, horses suffering at auctions and in double decker trailers and horses slowly starving to death in neighborhoods. Often, the response from law enforcement and regulators has been to excuse the problems or deny responsibility.

State legislators have refused to pass a stronger animal cruelty statute that would directly challenge those who allow the sickening level of equine suffering to continue. And when Animal Protection Voters asked legislators to create a basic safety net for horses in need, ranching interests worked to kill the bill in its first committee.

Will we continue to rationalize widespread horse abuse, or will we demand comprehensive change?

For the sake of horses, and for the well being of our state, we must all demand better.

Change starts with an investigation into the horse deaths at Ruidoso Downs on July 11, 2011. According to the Times, the horse Sinful Heart fell in 2008 at Zia Park and “survived to race three more times, in successively cheaper races, never winning before collapsing and dying on the track at Ruidoso.” Drugging and racing horses to death surely falls into the felonious crime of intentionally torturing an animal. Violations of the state Horse Racing Act are also fourthdegree felonies.

Horrifying video of the Southwest Livestock Auction has so far resulted in two investigations by the New Mexico Livestock Board. The injury and neglect of a horse is a crime, and if current laws do not support strong actions against Southwest Livestock Auction, then those laws must change to keep up with the recognition that horses are sensitive individuals who feel panic, fear, and pain.

The horse racing industry has some hard questions to answer. At a minimum, reforms must include public reporting on deaths and injuries, widespread testing for “doping,” and serious sanctions for violators, along with meaningful fines that support programs to help horses.

Equines have played a vital role in New Mexico, in this centennial year there has never been more urgency to uphold our obligations to these loyal, complex and majestic animals.

The Equine Protection Fund’s volunteer network assists horses and their families in a time of need, and donors to the fund provide support for key programs like emergency feed, gelding assistance and humane euthanasia, helping nearly 200 equines to date. Continued generous support will expand these statewide programs.

In barns across the state, you may have seen beautiful proverbs posted, including, “The horse is God’s gift to mankind.” Comprehensive and ambitious actions that speak louder than words are needed now to show that we respect this gift.


Also see:

Albuquerque Journal Editorial: Raise the Stakes On N.M.’s Racing Industry

Albuquerque Journal Editorial: Step Up Probe of Sale Barn Livestock Abuses

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