Minnesota’s horses are bouncing back. The University of Minnesota says a better economy and improved education are leading to fewer neglected horses in Minnesota.
“We have just been watching the trend and noticed in the last two years that there has been a decrease in the number of horses being investigated,” Krishona Martinson, U equine extension specialist, said.
Horse welfare investigations by the state Animal Humane Society decreased in 2014 and 2015 to a yearly average of 894, from an average of 1,400 horses from 2008 to 2013. Still, that’s well above the annual average of 420 between 2003 and 2006.
Martinson attributes the recent decline to initiatives like the Minnesota Hay Bank, providing assistance to horses in need, and population control. The Minnesota Horse Welfare Coalition’s free clinics have also castrated 122 stallions.
“We have done a lot of hard work with educating horse owners that when you purchase a horse, it can be a lifelong responsibility,” she said.
When horses are ill or mistreated, costs can run as high as $20,000 for veterinary care. Basic costs from nutrition to health care can cost horse owners about $2,000 a year, according to the U. As horses age, those costs can climb.
The horse welfare effort was funded largely in part by a $77,000 grant from the Morris Animal Foundation in 2011. Martinson said the grant encouraged better tracking of horses being investigated.
A Dakota County nonprofit fields about 12 to 15 calls a month from horse owners who can no longer afford to care for their pets.
Nancy Turner, president at This Old Horse, has a waiting list of 70 horses looking for a new home at the Dakota County sanctuary. Turner said the sanctuary has hardly any room for more horses.
“We go with the horses that seem to be most vulnerable,” she said. Turner said calls are consistently coming in for owners looking to voluntarily surrender their horses, but she has had fewer calls from law enforcement seizing neglected horses.
“There are not as many calls as there used to be,” she said.