Habitat for Horses to use contraceptives  http://galvnews.com/report.lasso?wcd=21748

Galveston -
Published June 28, 2004

HITCHCOCK — Starting next month Habitat for Horses will become the first nonprofit equine rescue group in America to use contraceptives for its domestic female horses.

The contraceptives are a pre-emptive move for the organization to guard against over-breeding of domestic horses, which leads to large numbers of equines being slaughtered each year, said Jerry Finch, founder and president of Habitat for Horses.

Two slaughterhouses in Texas kill about 1,200 horses a week, said Finch. The horses that end up in the slaughterhouses are usually the domestic grade equines commonly found in backyards with no registration.

“Auctioneers buy them for $300 to $600,” said Finch.

That horsemeat is then shipped to countries such as Belgium, France, Asia, Italy and Japan. Habitat for Horses is one of 200 groups waiting for a congressional bill to move out of the agricultural committee in Washington that would outlaw the sale of horsemeat.

So far, the group’s efforts to move that bill out of committee have been unsuccessful, said Finch, who worries that if it isn’t moved in two weeks it will die.

Until a slaughterhouse protection bill is passed in the country, the Hitchcock-based rescue group is banking on birth control.

“We want to prevent the slaughter flow into their plants,” said Finch.

The new contraceptive will become a part of the adoption policy for Habitat for Horses, which also has a rehabilitation center.

New horse owners will have to agree to give the birth control vaccine to the horse on a yearly basis. The cost of the vaccine is $20 a dose and it lasts a year.

The birth control method is known as PZP, which stands for porcine zona pellucida vaccine. The PZP vaccine is derived from pig eggs and is injected into the muscle of the female animal. The method works by stimulating the female’s immune system to produce antibodies against the vaccine. The antibodies also attach to the sperm receptors on the female’s eggs and distorts their shape, thereby blocking fertilization, according to www.pzpinfo.org, a Web site dedicated to discussing the birth control options for animals populations.

The method has been tried and proven successful in other animals, such as deer and coyotes, according to the group.

Researchers from ZooMontana, the University of California-Davis, University of Georgia, the University of Iowa, and the U.S. Humane Society developed the method, which reportedly has a 90 percent success rate.

Habitat for Horses has 35 mares on its ranch. Finch will travel to Montana to be trained to use the contraceptive. Once he returns, he said that the horses at the habitat would be given the vaccine.


Anyone who wants information on Habitat for Horse’s contraceptive program can call (409) 935-0277.