Two emergency shelters for horses have been licensed by the state of Illinois and a third is in the process, a Department of Agriculture official said Wednesday.

Two emergency shelters for horses have been licensed by the state of Illinois and a third is in the process, a Department of Agriculture official said Wednesday.


Hooved Animal Rescue and Protection Society (HARPS) in Barrington and Hooved Animal Humane Society in Woodstock have completed the licensing process developed by the agriculture department.


Meanwhile, the Society for Hooved Animal Rescue and Emergency (SHARE) in Champaign is completing the licensing process, said Dr. Colleen O’Keefe, veterinarian and manager of food safety and animal protection for the department.


O’Keefe said the state wants emergency shelters to meet basic standards for barn space, cleanliness, feed, fencing, health care and other factors that will ensure they are run by people qualified to care for the animals.


Donna Ewing, founder and president of HARPS, concurs with the licensing idea.

“So many people are purely emotional (about horses) and are not horse people,” Ewing said.  “They just like the pretty horsies. There are a million things that can go wrong with a horse.”


Emergency horse shelters are for horses what animal shelters are for cats and dogs. They take in sick, injured or abandoned animals, nurse them back to health and try to find a new home for them.  And like other animal shelters, there are limits to what the emergency horse shelters can do.


Ewing said she was recently contacted by a woman whose mother had six Arabian horses she needed to get rid of because she was in danger of losing her home. Ewing couldn’t take them because her facility was full.


O’Keefe said there is a “huge demand” by people trying to place horses in emergency shelters.  Sometimes animals are abused or neglected. Sometimes longtime horse owners realize they can no longer care for their animals. Sometimes it’s economics.


“Hay is very expensive this year,” O’Keefe said. “People are also getting strapped because of energy bills.”


Hay’s rising price stems from its lack of supply, as more and more fields are being used for lucrative corn, she said, plus there are weather factors.


Less clear is the effect that closing the nation’s last horse-slaughtering plant in DeKalb last summer has had on the people trying to place animals in emergency horse shelters.


“It’s pretty hard to quantify right now,” O’Keefe said. “We expected there would be an issue for the first year or two.”


Ewing, though, said the closing has had a “tremendous effect” on demand at her facility. With the plant closing, she said, some owners have turned to less-humane ways of disposing of horses.


“I’ve got about eight cases on my desk now,” she said. “What I’m concerned about is the quality of life and the quality of death.”


The Illinois plant was operated by Cavel International Inc. It was closed after state lawmakers passed a bill banning the import, export, possession and slaughter of horses for human consumption. The DeKalb plant slaughtered up to 60,000 horses a year and sold the meat primarily for human consumption overseas.


Cavel challenged the Illinois law in federal court and lost. Papers were filed Jan. 18 asking the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the case. Cavel attorney J. Philip Calabrese said it could take another one to two months for the court to decide if it will review the case.


Doug Finke can be reached at (217) 788-1527.