'This is a really urgent situation': Vancouver Island horse rescue foundation needs a new home
Humanity for Horses is a non-profit horse rescue foundation based in the Cowichan Valley. Since its creation in 2015, the rescue agency has saved the lives of more than 600 horses. Those horses were to be sent to auction where they would have been purchased by meat buyers to be processed for human consumption.
Now Humanity for Horses needs a little help of their own. The property the group leases is about to be put up for sale and they have been told to leave by Dec. 15. As of now, they have nowhere to go.
Rebecca Sanesh is the founder of Humanity for Horses and is showing off Phoenix, a horse that she purchased a little over a month ago.
His hind leg doesn’t work as well as it once did and at 29 years old, he’s considered old. But he’s one of the lucky ones.
“He was definitely destined for slaughter,” said Sanesh. “I think we paid $400 for this one.”
Sanesh purchased Phoenix at an auction, bidding against meat buyers who she says intended to send him to slaughter in Alberta.
Phoenix is one of 27 horses that currently calls the Maple Bay farm home. Many are old while others need daily medication.
For Sanesh, all those once-loved horses are worthy of a nice place to ride out their final days.
“Each one is so deserving of a retirement," said the non-profit's founder. "Each one is so deserving of an extra day, an extra year."
The foundation has less than a month to find a new home.
“This is a really urgent situation,” said Sanesh. “If we don’t find a spot, I don’t know what we’re going to do.”
Last summer's drought caused hay to be in short supply and the pandemic has driven up the cost of shipping.
Many horse owners have decided that they can no longer afford to own their animals and rather than rehouse them, the horses are being put up for auction.
“Horses are very much at risk,” said Sinikka Crosland, president of the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition. “Some of it does get consumed in Canada, in Quebec mainly.”
“COVID has been devastating for animals all over the planet. But horses, you’re looking at a minimum of $400 a month to keep a horse,” said Canadian musician and horse advocate Jann Arden.
Arden hasn’t been quiet about her distain of the horsemeat industry.
In 2007, the U.S. stopped the practice of slaughtering horses for meat. Now thousands of horses are crossing the border from the U.S. every year, to be slaughtered in Canada.
“They’ll ship them up here and by the time they get here they are in such poor shape,” said Arden. “Whatever they can chop up, regurgitate and sell to a European market, they will.”
Arden says the whole industry is inhumane, cruel and unsustainable.
“It’s all foreign workers that are hoping to be able to stay here because they can’t get anyone else on these kill floors,” she said.
Back in Maple Bay, the 27 horses that call the farm home have been spared but their time on the property is quickly running out. Sanesh needs to find a new location and fast.
“I just pray and I hope that we can find a spot,” said Sanesh.
The rescue foundation needs to find a long-term, fenced farm, ideally on the South Island. The Cowichan Valley is preferred. Sanesh is hoping for at least 20 acres with a barn and can afford to pay $2,500 a month.