When is mistreatment of an animal considered animal abuse? Like so many things, this issue can be considered rather subjective, it’s in the eyes and arms of the beholder in fact.
Identifying what animal abuse actually is can often become a heated moral question; so much so that the definition of animal abuse varies from community to community, and state to state. Labeling animal abuse is often done more for the sake of aiding law enforcement to deal with the issue after the fact.
Most lawmaking entities can agree that animal cruelty exists when the intentional injuring, maiming, torture, or wounding of an animal occurs. Most groups also can find agreement in the area of owners providing the required and necessary food, water, shelter and the lack of using animals for fighting each other, tormenting or overworking them.
From here the waters get a bit murky, and the issue becomes a bit more judgmental and tempers flare as everyone professes to have the definitive interpretation on animal abuse. Oft times, one way, or the other, the opinions are based on previous experiences, often dragged along from childhood.
One thing is for sure, and history backs this fact, the animal abuse issue has become more emotionally charged, along with incidences of it abounding over recent decades. Arguments often arise over what an owner has the right to do to his “possession” and what he should never be allowed to do. Does an owner truly “own” an animal? Is it like owning a car, an appliance, a piece of property? At what point does an animal have rights, and what are those?
Quite similar to the culture and mores of our younger country, many of our animal welfare issues have floated over to us from across the ocean, originating in Europe and other countries. Deeper rooted generations tend to examine their own consciences for how they treat living beings and question their values and ethics in lording over the more seemingly simple minded of species and sub species.
As horse owners, it is never too early to address the issue of proper care and management of our horses. Do we want to become known as an entity of animal caregivers who don’t? Give appropriate care that is? … become known as negligent like so many small animal industries have? How do we want our industry seen as caregivers to our horses?
“Responsible Caregivers” might be a label with a lasting heritage that we might be proud to hand down to future generations. Few would doubt that food, water, shelter, and respect would be four primary necessities of a responsible caregiver of horses. But if we as humans are going to manage the lives of horses, in an environment other than their native free range scenarios, then the effort must go beyond rudimentary.
Respect should be a given that dictates that we refrain for causing harm, pain, or injury to our equine companions. Overworking a horse beyond their enjoyment or pleasure in the task, to the point of harm or injury, has to be an over-riding policy of unrequited respect. We cannot ask more of an equine partner than what we would expect of ourselves.
“Responsible Caregiving” – or – ownership, of a horse, or any animal for that matter, carries with it a moral and ethical responsibility to give total care to that animal. And if you can’t find total agreement with that statement, then you should never so much as contemplate “ownership” of, or undertake responsibility for a horse. If you can’t be totally prepared to give complete care to an animal you expect to live within the confines of your own personal comfort zone, then don’t bring one home.
Along with the mandatory and primary care of your horse, you should understand that you are your horse’s first responder. You will likely be the one who will be on the spot, and at the site of equine injuries, illness, and emergencies. As it is with food and water, it is your responsibility to be prepared for emergencies.
Along with hay, grain if needed, and a fresh, clean, steady source of water, you should maintain an approved and adequate equine first aid kit. You needn’t be expected to possess the skills or knowledge of a horse doctor or a vet tech for that matter, but you should own and know how to use the primary first aid equipment and supplies to care for the emergency needs of your horse(s).
You should be prepared to respond to and take care of your injured or sick horse until a veterinarian can get to your horses, or you can transport the horse to a clinic. Consider that your responsibility. No one else is going to show up in the middle of your horse emergency and provide that for you.
If you cannot be a responsible enough horse caregiver, to own an adequate first aid kit, and know how to use it, then don’t consider owning and having in your environment, a horse(s). Possession of a horse is a conscious decision – think it through. Don’t do it if you can’t do it all the way, and if you do, do it right.
To bring a horse into your comfort zone is to take him out of his natural one. That makes you responsible for the outcome and the wellbeing of that horse; do so only after you have studied the entire ramifications of that responsibility. Don’t do it at all, if you can’t do it right.
If not considered animal abuse today, it likely will soon be considered animal abuse to have possession of a horse without being able to demonstrate the tools to be able to be a responsible caregiver. If nothing else, before long, liability insurance policies relating to horse possession with be requiring approved equine first aid kits and supplies.