Dear Porky and Buddy,
Maybe you can help me. I know you usually give advice about dogs and cats, but my question is about horses. I have been driving by a small pasture where several horses seem to be living and, I can’t see that they have any shelter at all. Plus, the “pasture” seems to be mostly mud. I can see that they have hay and water but it’s cold out there and the mud can’t be healthy for them! Are there any laws saying that horses have to have shelter during the winter? Should I call the police?
We start getting questions about horses in these kinds of conditions every year at around this time. Thanks for being so observant about the animals you see. We appreciate the conscientious efforts of kind-hearted people all around the county who go out of their way to get involved with what they think might be an animal problem that needs fixing.
We had to check with our own veterinarian about the care of horses during the winter. We like to be all snuggly and warm, ourselves, but it turns out that horses really are pretty rugged and most of them like being outside much of the time. They should, however, have at least a three-sided lean to type shelter with a roof, and with the open side facing away from the wind. That is the recommendation of the major horse care groups as well. Unfortunately, however, the laws in New York that govern the care of animals do not contain any specific shelter requirement concerning most animals. You must provide “sustenance,” i.e. food and water, but the only specific shelter requirement pertains to dogs only. So even though these horses are not in an ideal situation, it is not against the law.
That said, there is nothing wrong with being a (polite) busy body on behalf of animals. So if you know these people, or if you know someone else who knows them, or even if you don’t, there’s no harm in initiating a conversation (not an argument) with them about their horses. Maybe they recognize the need for better shelter and are making plans. Maybe they could use some help or some suggestions about where to find materials. Maybe they’ll be offended. But at least they will have heard your concerns and they will know that someone is watching out for these animals. The more people watch out for animals, the better off we’ll all be.
And remember that the Humane Society’s Large Animal Assistance Project can check things out with horse owners and offer some forms of assistance and/or advice when that is appropriate. So you can call the Humane Society with your questions and concerns too.
The Oswego County Humane Society provides spay/neuter services and assistance, fostering and adoption of animals in urgent need, humane education programs, and information and referrals to animal lovers throughout Oswego County. Our office is located at 265 West First Street, Oswego, New York. Phone (315) 207-1070. Email: [email protected] Website: www.oswegohumane.org