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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Who's Watching Those Rescuing America's Race Horses?

If you are concerned about the well-being of off the track racehorses or for that fact, any horse seeking a new career and you are on social media, you eventually will come across postings which accuse individuals and/ or groups of not taking care of their charges.  Sometimes they may be accused of starving horses; sometimes they are blamed for amishing their charges, which is another divisive issue in itself, a topic for another time.

Usually once the first salvo is fired, it is only a matter of time until the person/group responds defending themselves from the accusations, the start of the back and forth of accusations and defenses which will get people taking sides, often  based on who they may trust   Heaven forbid you trust both parties; your head probably will spin more than Reagan's head did in The Exorcist.  

Clearly both sides can't be right.  Someone either has higher standards than the other group or someone is lying.  Why would someone lie you may ask?

As typically is the case, m-o-n-e-y.  The number of donors and the amount of money available for horse rescue is limited.  Now let me make it perfectly clear, I am not taking sides in any on-going disputes.  Sometime a charge may be to discredit a group for the benefit of their own group, sometimes the charges are true.

Unfortunately, unless you live down the road from the two groups, you won't know what the real story is. What is needed is a way to help the donor properly assess the situation regarding the rescues they are considering supporting.  For the thoroughbred, the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA) offers accreditation of rescues which meet their standards, making them eligible for funding from the TAA.  Of course, supporters of thoroughbred rescue may use the accreditation in determining which groups they wish to support.

Alas, if you are a supporter of the standardbred, there is no Standardbred Aftercare Alliance, so it is 'donor beware' of whom you support.  While there is no fool proof method of determining who to support, I offer the following suggestions.

  1. Know the type of rescue it is.  Do they take in surrenders, go to the sales and buy horses, and/or do they deal with brokers in rescuing horses?  While I avoid those who try to rescue broker horses due to the potential of the rescue being used as a means for brokers to sell horses at a handsome profit, the point is support a rescue which meets your philosophical/ethical approach.
  2. Does the rescue welcome visitors?  Sure, there may be times when they can't accept visitors but they should be able to accommodate you and allow you to see their rescues.  If you keep getting excuses, it is not the rescue for you and a major red flag.
  3. Does the rescue make adopters fill out an application and check applicants or does the horse go to the first person who has the money?
  4. Does the rescue require adopters to file periodic reports?  Do they maintain ownership of the horse and take back horses when an adoption doesn't work out or do they allow the horse to once again become at risk?
  5. Does the rescue ban the breeding of any of their horses as part of their contract?
  6. How long has the rescue been operating?  If more than two years old, and it has not gotten its tax exempt status, 501(c)3, beware.  While having this tax exempt status is no guarantee the organizations is legitimate, being a 501(c)3 means the rescue is not for profit.  Lack of the 501(c)3 status means someone can legally be making money running the rescue, something which should raise a red flag.  Don't get me wrong, a rescue with a 501(c)3 status can violate the rules, but if caught, they may face the music from the IRS and prosecutors.
  7. If a 501(c)3, they should make their most recent form 990 available for review either on their website or on a site such as Charity Navigator.  If the group has recently become 501(c)3, it may take a little time for the rescue to get their act together with regards to this but if they have been around any length of time, the 990 is readily available.  Not online?  Ask them to send you their most recent 990.  If form 990 is not available, it's a red flag (realize there may be a one year delay on getting the form 990 posted.
  8. Are they accredited in any way?  Realistically, if they are a small rescue, they may not have the ability or time to achieve accreditation, but if they are a larger rescue and been around awhile, they should be accredited by an organization such as the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.  Accreditation is another check on the validity of the organization.
This is not an all or none list.  A rescue may not meet all of these items (not that this is a definitive list) but if they fail enough of these items, you may want to look elsewhere.  

An accreditation from a group like the TAA would be the best solution in determining which rescues are best but failing that, it is up to you to do the work to give you the best chance of your hard earned dollars going to valid rescues.  While it is unlikely the standardbred industry will form a similar alliance in the foreseeable future, perhaps the standardbred industry could contract with the TAA to perform such a review of standardbred rescues.

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