For Thoroughbred horses, life after racing can sometimes mean the auction block or slaughterhouse or even abandonment.
A new program announced by a national animal welfare organization hopes to help horses avoid those circumstances.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals announced its Million Dollar Rescuing Racers Initiative March 2. The program, made possible by a generous donor, will aid in the rescue of retired racehorses from neglect, abuse, and slaughter.
Six equine rescue organizations and sanctuaries across the country were selected to meet the challenge of saving more Thoroughbreds than they have previously.
The six grant recipients are California Equine Retirement Foundation in Winchester; Old Friends in Georgetown, Ky.; MidAtlantic Horse Rescue in Chesapeake City, Md.; Kentucky Equine Humane Center in Lexington; Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, headquartered in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., with contracted housing in 14 states; and Communication Alliance to Network Thoroughbred Ex-Racehorses in East Lansing, Mich., with chapters in eight states.
Jacque Schultz, senior director of community outreach for the ASPCA, said the facilities were selected on the basis of a proven track record with the society, stability in operations, and fiscal responsibility to ensure the programs would remain open long after the grant money runs out.
"There are well over 400 equine rescues, so it's a pretty deep pool, but we also needed to make sure, since these are large gifts, that they were established organizations with sound leadership at the helm," Schultz said.
The recipients cover a wide range of Thoroughbred rescues, and the grant funding—ranging from $100,000 to $350,000—will be distributed over the next two to three years.
The grant stipulates that at least 50 percent of the money be used to increase capacity in a responsible manner. The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, for example, will use part of its grant to rent out more field space, allowing it to take on an additional 40 horses, and expand two of its prison inmate volunteer programs.
Other recipients' plans include expanding direct-intake programs, incorporating physical therapy and rehabilitation programs, renovating facilities to accommodate more horses, creating voucher programs to increase adoptions, and implementing training programs for Thoroughbreds to ready them for second careers, according to an ASPCA release.
"The whole point of this is to do it responsibly. Sanctuaries have horses a long time—some maybe 20 or 30 years. … We don't want anyone to get in over their head," Schultz said.
In 2009, the ASPCA awarded a total of more than $540,000 in the form of 164 grants to equine rescue groups and humane organizations across the country.