PHOENIX -- Horses might be an inherent part of our Wild West culture, but there's a troubling trend happening across the nation, and the Southwest is no exception.
Almost every horse rescue in the country is running out of room or money as they continue to deal with a growing number of animals abandoned by their owners.
Horse owners are dealing with many issues related to the recession, including joblessness, reduced wages or loss of a home, all while the cost to care for these animals continues to increase.
"One bail of alfalfa four or five years ago was around $7.00 a bail. In today's market, it runs around $15.00," said James Moyle, director of the Apache Junction Horse Rescue. "[And] one bail lasts one horse about five days."
As the number of homeless animals continues to rise, the amount of donations continues to decline.
"Because of the downsizing in the economy, donations have fallen off the scale," lamented Moyle. "Most people prefer to give to high-profile causes, such as breast cancer and small animals. Those causes that can afford commercial time on television seem to perform the best."
According to statistics provided by the Triple R Horse Rescue in Cave Creek:
It is estimated that there are approximately 175,000 unwanted horses in the United States. Although the stories that tend to be prevalent in the media are those of "abused or neglected animals," as they tend to tug on everyone's heart strings, these are not the majority of the horses that end up in rescues.
In Arizona, we estimate that there are approximately 3500 horses a year that need to be re-homed. Our best estimate of the total capacity of all of the rescues and sanctuaries in the state is approximately 1,000. As is very obvious, these numbers do not stack up well."
Horse rescues around the state are forced to turn away up to a dozen horses per week because of the lack of space and resources. Desperate horse owners remain desperate, and often, according to experts, sell the animals at auction or online, often unknowingly to "killer bidders."
"The most disturbing thing for me is that American horses are being shipped to Canada or Mexico for slaughter," said Kim Meagher of Wildhorse Ranch Rescue in Gilbert, Ariz. "It's not a humane death as some people might think. These animals are brutally killed and the meat is processed for human consumption."
The three organizations below are currently accepting donations: