July 2016 Issue - page 6

Page 6
July 2016
PENNSYLVANIA EQUESTRIAN
By Suzanne Bush
There are lots of potential
tragedies that can strike a horse
that has been rescued from
near-starvation and abuse, but
one of the most devastating is the
possibility that the horse could
wind up at an auction where so-
called “kill buyers” are buying
up horses to take to Canadian
abattoirs.
Most horse rescue groups do
everything they can to protect the
animals in their care; the ultimate
goal is to rehabilitate horses and
get them adopted by people who
will protect and care for them.
Adopters are almost always
required to sign contracts that
ensure the horse they adopt will
not go to auction. The contracts
usually guarantee the rescue
organizations first right of refusal
in the event that adopters can no
longer care for the horse, or no
longer want the horse. Thus, a
horse once rescued should never
face the uncertainty of an auction
again.
Sometimes, though, people
who adopt horses from rescue
groups—for any number of rea-
sons—don’t fulfill the contracts
they sign. Instead, they try to sell
the horses at auction, leaving the
horses vulnerable to the possi-
bility of a long, terrible trip and
death at the abattoirs.
Last Chance Ranch is one of several rescues that has start-
ed freeze branding the horses that pass through their gates.
The brand allows observers to easily identify horses that
have been sent to auction and notify the rescue.
Photo credit: Jackie Burke, Equine Health Manager and
Fundraising Coordinator at Last Chance Ranch
Rescued Horses Freeze
Branded for Safety
Kelly Smith of Omega Horse
Rescue in Airville, PA says that
she started freeze branding the
horses she rescues in order to
provide one more line of defense
for the horse. “We do it for veri-
fication for our purposes. It’s our
logo.” She says that if someone
were to see a horse that came
from her rescue at an auction,
they would notify her.
Last Chance Ranch, a
Quakertown, PA rescue organi-
zation, has been freeze branding
their horses since 2005. Jackie
Burke says that the branding is
an effective safety net. “We had
one instance of a pony that went
through auction,” she says. The
people who adopted the pony as a
show prospect, Burke says, “kind
of outgrew her,” and instead of
contacting Last Chance Ranch,
the owners dropped the pony
at the auction. “Several people
at the auction—as well as the
auction house—contacted us. We
had to buy the pony back, since
someone had bought her at the
auction.” She reiterates, though,
that “The horses actually have
to come back to us.” Even when
adopters violate the contract,
it’s unlikely many rescue groups
have the money and resources to
sue those adopters.
Burke says that their protocol
for ensuring the safety of the horses
that have been adopted includes at
least one annual contact per year.
And the adopters are also required
to provide signed verification
each year that a veterinarian has
checked the horse. They currently
have 320 horses they’re tracking.
With Freeze Branding,
Horses Don’t Feel the Burn
According to Dr. Eva
Conant of Cornell University’s
Department of Animal Science,
freeze branding is a
permanent marking for
identification, similar
to hot branding. She re-
plied to several questions about
the process via email.
“With freeze branding, the
iron is submerged in liquid nitro-
gen until the iron is -300 degrees
F, then applied to the skin (after
clipping and prepping with alco-
hol) and held there for between
7-15 seconds depending on the
metal used for the brand, the age
of the horse and the color of the
horse.” She says that within a few
minutes the skin where the brand
was pressed will begin to swell
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