The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

February 1, 2009

Economic troubles may be spelling bad news for horses

Economic ills are bringing hard times out in the country and that means some horses in West Virginia are either being neglected or simply turned loose to fend for themselves.

Each month, the Department of Agriculture averages half a dozen calls about horses facing neglect, or abandonment, as owners simply cannot find the money to buy them food, and the matter worsens in the winter months.

Unable to graze in the snow and frozen turf, horses must rely on owners to put hay up in the barns, and for some, the average monthly cost of $100 to do so is putting a severe cramp in their budgets. Push comes to shove, and the owners part company with their trusty steeds.

Aware of a worsening problem, Agriculture Commissioner Gus Douglass is calling a meeting with his agency and others in the state in hopes of finding a solution.

Only a week ago, his agency disposed of a severely injured horse that was found along the roadside and taken home by a concerned animal lover.

“I fear we have not seen the last of these types of incidents,” Douglass said. “The economy looks as though it’s going to get worse before it gets better, and pets — particularly large animals such as horses — can be very expensive to take care of.”

Buddy Davidson, the department’s communications director, says small, domestic animals remain an on-going problem.

“There has always been a dog and cat overpopulation,” he said. “There are pounds and there are procedures at the local level where those are dealt with. Large animals have been kind of left in limbo. Horses are a kind of a special sort of case.”

Owners with several horses are finding it increasingly difficult to buy feed, and trying to unload horses at livestock market has been problematic, he said. For one thing, the price they fetch has been rock bottom.

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