Here’s a thought provoking post on 03/23/11 by Ray Paulick on the Paulick Report:
Around this time last year, the board of directors of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation held a facilitated, day-long retreat to discuss a myriad of challenges facing the organization.
There was an ambitious agenda of items to discuss, but for me the overwhelming issue dealt with something I wrote about last week: too many horses, not enough money.
To draw attention to the issue I found a magazine cover I remembered from my college days, the January 1973 issue of National Lampoon, a now-defunct humor rag. It was the “death” issue of the Lampoon, and the cover depicted a frightened looking dog with a gun pointed to its head. The cover line read: “If you don’t buy this magazine, we’ll kill this dog.”
The board discussed that approach in connection with the TRF’s financial difficulties. Should we send a message to the industry and its various stakeholders that says, “If you don’t support the TRF, these horses will die”?
The debate focused mostly on whether or not the message would help or hurt fundraising efforts. (It didn’t help National Lampoon that much. It went out of business not long after that issue was published.) What we avoided that day was a serious adult conversation about whether or not we would follow up on our threat, and euthanize 200 horses to get the TRF herd to a more manageable number that could be sustained financially.
I have long believed that euthanasia is necessary when money cannot be raised to support the quality of life an animal deserves. I personally see it as an unfortunate but realistic necessity and a far better alternative to neglect or slaughter (which, along with the unhappy ending, brings with it the terrible transportation issues that the federal government was to have solved many years ago but has not).
Others disagree, and while I respect their opinions, I have always asked them to suggest a solution other than euthanasia when the money just isn’t there to support a horse that no one else wants.
I did the same thing last week in writing that there are no easy answers to the TRF’s financial challenges. Sure, some people said simply, “Feed your horses,” but I wonder if they also sent a donation to the TRF or other Thoroughbred retirement charity to help and have taken an active role in fundraising from their contacts. Others said to “raise more money” or “cut your administrative costs.” It’s hard to do both at the same time.
Many believe every Thoroughbred born deserves to live out his or her life without the threat of euthanasia or neglect. In a perfect world, that would happen. This world is far from perfect. Nevertheless, many people set that idealistic goal and do everything they can to achieve it.
How easy would that be?
Here are some eye-opening numbers:
- There are an approximately 100,000 unwanted horses from all breeds born each year; some estimates have put Thoroughbreds at about 10%, of roughly one third of each year’s Thoroughbred foal crop, or 10,000 foals
- The cost of caring for a one horse, for one year, is approximately $2,300.
- The average horse lives to the age of 20.
Let’s do the math and be conservative. Let’s say there are 10,000 Thoroughbred foals that required needs, and the annual cost is $2,000. Let’s say they don’t enter the “unwanted” category until they are 10 years old, and they live another 10 years.
That’s 10,000 x $2,000 x 10. That means each Thoroughbred foal crop’s castoffs bring with them a $200 million price tag for lifetime care.
Who will pay?