Each year, more than 100,000 American horses cross the borders into Canada and Mexico where they are sold for slaughter. Countless thousands are seized by animal control officers in cases of abandonment, abuse or neglect, while an untold number of horses suffer silently in barns and backyards around the country. It seems an unfair fate for the animal that has, throughout history, given so much to mankind. Fields were plowed, battles were won, new frontiers were discovered and nations were built – all on the back of a horse.
Over the last decade, hope for a brighter future has blossomed in the widespread emergence of equine welfare organizations. While these organizations have begun to provide a safety net for America's horses, the need for them is increasing exponentially.
Rising costs of fuel and hay, coupled with an economic downturn, have thrust more equines than ever into at-risk situations. At the same time, feeling the economic pinch, Americans have decreased their charitable giving and equine welfare organizations are seeing fewer, smaller donations. The result is an industry that is financially struggling and has reached or is nearing capacity, in a climate where the need for these organizations is urgent and continuing to grow. Now, more than ever, the equine welfare industry needs to thrive.
After spending several years in the equine welfare world, Shirley Puga wanted to make a difference beyond the 800+ horses she was able to rescue herself. She aspired to impact the lives of horses across the country. Towards that end, Puga is launching National Equine Resource Network (NERN). NERN has been created specifically to ensure the stability, and nurture the growth, of the rapidly expanding equine welfare industry.
“There are over 400 known equine welfare organizations in the United States. Most of these facilities are young organizations, operating on a shoestring budget, and managed by people with incredible heart and drive, but who generally do not have the time or expertise to make the most effective use of their limited resources” says Puga.
She goes on to say that “The mission of NERN is to help these organizations remain stable in an unstable climate, and to provide them with the tools, education and support necessary to achieve growth and sustainability. Cats and dogs have a support structure through the national network of humane societies and SPCAs, but there is little in the way of a comprehensive support network for horses. NERN aims to change that.”
NERN is currently distributing a survey to equine welfare organizations requesting their feedback on the areas where assistance is most critical. Programs that will be activated later this year include a comprehensive resource database, equine welfare grants, as well as collaborative projects, such as castration clinics and educational workshops.
The horse has served mankind for hundreds of years – on the farm and the battlefield, on the track and down long roads. The equine welfare community that works to give back to the horse is dedicated, but struggling. Help is on the way.
For more information about NERN, please visit us online at www.nationalequine.org or contact Shirley Puga, Executive Director, at 760.419.2462