Flagging economy hurts horses, too


We've written about pet owners struggling to keep their dogs and cats. But Black Beauty is being stung by the economy as well.

The Associated Press wrote about it recently, and so have numerous local papers around the country. As The Daily Record, smack in the middle of Washington state, reports, the Second Chance Ranch in the town of Elma has been getting a lot of calls at their horse rescue center.

"People are panicking because of the economy," said Katie Merwick. "They're losing their jobs, and their homes. Boarding prices have skyrocketed, prices of hay and gas have gone up -- I have 10 times the number of horses needing homes."

For some of those who call in, she is asking if they'll keep the horses if she supplies the hay.

Last month, the Montana Department of Livestock reported their numbers of horse abandonment going up, and the Register Herald in Beckley, West Virginia ran a similar story about an increase in owners being unable to care for their steeds.

Not that this is a new problem that just started getting out of control in the last few months. Time magazine called horse abandonment an "epidemic" back last summer, and then USA Todaycovered the dilemma last December. The problem started spiraling out of control when gas prices became especially frightening, and while fuel costs are lower, supplying hay is becoming cost-prohibitive. Last summer, the cost of hay was $3 to $4 per bale, and now this winter, it's averaging $10. All in all, the cost of hay, since 1989, has risen 600%.

But if there's any good news in any of this, it's that if anyone wants to own or care for a horse right now, your odds of being able to have one should be pretty good. Nationwide, there are a lot of animal rescue shelters, like this one, that are looking for foster owners who can afford to keep and care for a horse.