Horse rescuers penned in by recession

Horses congregate at an animal sanctuary. At a time when horse rescue centers are dealing with increasing requests to take in animals, they're facing a decrease in funding.

Chris Vilmer, Lifesavers' vice president

Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States

Non-profit worker James Gulledge and Rico, the horse he adopted and returned to Lifesavers.

Rico, an 8-year-old mustang, was returned to Lifesavers because his owner could no longer afford to take care of him.

Bill Radke: Now here is another effect of the recession to add to your list -- "homeless horses." There are thousands of them across the country. Their owners can't afford to care for them anymore. A lot of horse rescue centers are not in a position to help. Daryl Paranada filed this report.


Chris Vilmer: He knows that mare. They're friends.

Daryl Paranada: Chris Vilmer runs Lifesavers horse rescue center just north of Los Angeles. She boards and cares for more than 150 animals. In an office overlooking her 46-acre ranch, Vilmer says demand for her services has kicked into high gear in the past few months.

Vilmer: I'm fielding calls of people that just can't afford to pay for their horses anymore. That need to place them somewhere.

Donations are down and she can't afford to take in any more animals.

Vilmer: More horses need us, but donations are dipping.

It's the same story at the more than 500 organizations like Vilmer's across the country.

Wayne Pacelle is president of the Humane Society of the United States:

Wayne Pacelle: I think so many of these sanctuaries and rescues that help horses have always struggled to make ends meet.

And the bad economy has made things even worse.

Pacelle: All nonprofits are tightening their belts in our sector. I think we're talking, you know generally speaking, a 5 [percent] to 10 [percent], maybe 15 percent drop in revenue.

The falloff couldn't come at a worse time for many horse owners. Los Angeles resident James Gulledge recently had to return his mustang, Rico, to Lifesavers.

James Gulledge: It was just getting too expensive.

Boarding and caring for a horse can cost up to $4,000 a year. Gulledge works for a nonprofit that helps people with learning disabilities, and it's having its own problems finding money these days.

Gulledge: Being in the nonprofit sector, everything is very uncertain at this point, and so I realized I needed to prepare for worst-case scenarios for me.

The worst-case scenario could be in store for many unwanted horses. Few buyers are coming forward, even though trade magazines and Web sites advertise horses for as low as a dollar. And a handful of states are considering bills to reopen slaughterhouses. To which the horses at Lifesavers say:

Horses: Neigh!

That's horse talk for no way.

In Los Angeles, I'm Daryl Paranada for Marketplace.

About the author

Daryl Paranada is the associate web producer for Marketplace overseeing all daily website content and production, as well as producing multimedia features -- including the popular economic explainer series Whiteboard -- and special projects. Follow him on Twitter @darylparanada.

Chris Vilmer, Lifesavers' vice president

Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States

Non-profit worker James Gulledge and Rico, the horse he adopted and returned to Lifesavers.

Rico, an 8-year-old mustang, was returned to Lifesavers because his owner could no longer afford to take care of him.

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