The American Quarter Horse
Association, which has hundreds of thousands of members, has
reiterated its position on euthanasia and horse slaughter in the
wake of an accusatory Blue Horse Charities letter that was
disseminated to the racing industry in early November.
The letter, signed by Ward Stutz, director of member services
and public policy for the AQHA, said the unsigned Blue Horse
Charities letter contained "several misleading, incomplete,
and false claims" about the AQHA. The AQHA has a position on
euthanasia that was drafted with assistance by the American
Association of Equine Practitioners and the American Veterinary
Medical Association, both of which were accused by Blue Horse
Charities of joining with the AQHA to thwart passage of the
American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act.
"AQHA does not support (the legislation), and the
association does not favor slaughter as a means of dealing with
unwanted horses," Stutz said in his letter. "What AQHA
favors is horse owners having all legal choices available for the
difficult end-of-life decisions. AQHA also recognizes that
adoption and retirement facilities are options for owners, and
would endorse federal regulations and standards that would govern
the operations of these facilities.
"That said, AQHA does have serious concerns about any
federally imposed ban on processing facilities. Chief among our
concerns is taking away a viable humane euthanasia option, which
would increase instances of abuse and neglect of unwanted horses.
This has been supported by an independent, scientific study. We do
not want to see horses starved, mistreated, neglected or shipped
to other countries where processing facilities are not regulated
by U.S. law or USDA officials.
"To assist, AQHA supported legislation to ensure that
regulations were in place for horses transported to slaughter
facilities. Simply put, AQHA wants to ensure humane transportation
for those horses that are bound for processing, and that owners
and members have the right to choose for themselves whether or not
to use a humanely operated, federally inspected facility."
The AQHA said it also uses educational programs for owners on
the responsibilities of caring for horses, and encourages
recreational riding programs. It also funds research in the
"millions of dollars," Stutz said in the letter.
The Blue Horse Charities letter also claimed the AQHA doesn't
represent the position of many of its members in regard to horse
slaughter, but Stutz said about 85% of the AQHA's directors agreed
or strongly agreed with the organization's current position,
according to a poll.
"If members believe it's necessary for their association
to alter its position on the issue of unwanted horses or
euthanasia of horses, then they simply need to contact AQHA,
contact any AQHA director, or attend their association's annual
convention," Stutz said.
In the letter mailed in early November, Blue Horse Charities,
formed in partnership with Fasig-Tipton Co. in 2001, said it
doesn't necessarily have a bone to pick with members of the three
organizations, but with the organizations "that purport to
represent them. It is our opinion that these organizations are
listening to those to whom approximately $500 a head is good
enough reason for putting tens of thousands of horses through the
terror and misery that precede a grisly death."
The organizations targeted by Blue Horse Charities have been
proactive in terms of making their positions public via policy
statements. Representatives said they were somewhat surprised by
the allegations contained in the letter.