I think that, given Fugly's blog is umpteen times bigger than my own, it is safe to assume that anyone concerned with the issue of the "starving reining horses" in Washington have either already seen Fugly's blog or will in the near future.
Fugly's decision to publish the name and ranch of those who are accused of starving some reining horses in Snohomish County Washington was one I previously chose not make in light of the fact that I was unable to ensure that any information I posted was factual and/or that it served the purpose of helping the horses concerned.
Bloggers are not held to the same ethical standard as journalists, but with the evolution of the Internet in our culture, more and more of the public has come to rely upon blogs as a source of news and information and as such, I feel we bloggers must take responsibility for ensuring that anything we write, when presented as fact, is such and that the rights of the individual are being respected. Laws against libel and slander exist, in part, to avoid the mob mentality and potential for vigilantism that can be created when the public's emotion is called to rise by those who offer neither facts, an un-bias opinion or a solution.
While it may seem I am putting the rights of those who may be violating the responsibilities inherent in owning and caring for animals, over the concern for those who are being subject to their abuses, I'd like to point out that attacking the accused does little to help the situation, and in fact may be counterproductive.
My reason behind first blogging about this issue was to hear from people that knew of the situation first hand and to find out what was being said and done to help those horses. I also wanted to express my shock that such neglect could happen to animals so valuable.
After writing that post I e-mailed a number of people in an attempt to find out- First, what was true; Second, what had already been done; and Third, what more I could do to help.
In the past, when faced with a case of neglect, abuse, and/or horses that are in need of the public's help I have found it most helpful to first ask:
Who has power to feed, remove, view and control these horses?
The answer almost always is the owner and the government.
Those who have the greatest position of influence- friends, family and peers- are most likely to be able to persuade the owner to accept help. In this case I am sure Judy Caton was overwhelmed by the e-mails, phone calls and visitors from all of these concerned fellow breeders and trainers in her community. Anyone in a position of influence, that was willing to do so, has no doubt already tried to remedy the situation.
If social pressure from an owner's peer group is unable to persuade him or her, it seems unlikely the public would fair much better.
And so that leaves us with government intervention and Fugly's suggestion that Animal Control be called. Obviously, if anyone is witness to any kind of abuse or neglect it is our responsibility to report it to the local Animal Control office. However, I worry that rallying a group of third parites together to call on mass will do little but overwhelm the office staff, who are probably overrun with the unfortunate byproduct of this economy (unwanted, neglected and abandoned animals.)
My experience has been, in such cases where it seems the local authorities are doing little or nothing to resolve the problem, it is because they are subject to certain legal procedures and protocols in order to seize property (and horses are considered property). Restrictions like whether there is enough feed on the property to for the number in the herd, mitigating circumstances that could have lead to the horses declining health, the owners explanation, the person(s) responsible for their care vs. owner(s) etc.. are all factors that could leave the humane society will little choice to but wait for the situation to decline. No amount of public outcry can change the ability for local animal control to act in a case where there is no legal merit. As these laws are made at the legislative level, I think we are better served to put the presure of such social activism against those who have the power to exact change.
Another source of potential change within the industry could be within the governing bodies of equine sports like the NRHA, NCHA or NSBA not to mention breed associations like the AQHA or APHA. Should these organizations take stand on the breeding and husbandry practises of their members? Should limits be placed on breeders? Should licences or registration privileges be revolved for abuse or neglect cases?