It is always a sad day at the River Road shelter when a horse is euthanized. It was especially hard when two of the Neglected 20 horses were euthanized on the same day recently. Offering a quick and peaceful end to horses who are suffering and unable to recover is an important part of running a humane animal welfare organization, but it never gets much easier.
The young, dark bay gelding we called Diego was nearly 150 pounds underweight. Much worse, he suffered from untreated conditions that kept him from urinating or passing manure normally. A lack of necessary veterinary treatment had resulted in painful wounds in a sensitive place. Right away, MSSPA sent Diego to the wonderful veterinarians at New England Equine Medical and Surgical Center to be evaluated and treated. There Dr. Davis identified a neurological condition, likely caused by an untreated viral infection, that crippled the five year old. Unfortunately, both his conditions had already progressed to the point that little could be done for him. Rather than asking him to continue to suffer with so little hope of improvement, an ethical decision was made that young Diego would be humanely euthanized.
On the same day that Diego was euthanized–just a few hours later–the emaciated bay gelding we called Flaco went down for a second time in less than a week and simply could not muster the strength to get back up. In his late 20s and nearly 200 pounds underweight, Flaco’s strong spirit was not enough to overcome the extreme neglect he had suffered. MSSPA staff and the responding veterinarian tried to get Flaco back on his feet, but it quickly became clear that he no longer had the energy to even attempt to stand. Because of his age and poor physical condition, we made the decision that a quick and painless end was the kindest decision for Flaco.
After this sad experience, everyone at MSSPA was thinking about these horses and why their lives turned out the way they did. Owning animals means taking responsibility for their lives and their welfare. It means providing food, water, and shelter, along with necessary medical care. Even if these horses had sufficient food and water–which they did not–it would not have been enough. Horses need more than just food and water to live lives worth living. Hay doesn’t mean much to a horse who is required to suffer such a great medical indignity that he can’t even relieve himself without pain or help from humans. Although they were with us for such a short time, we are glad that Diego and Flaco made it to MSSPA. Had they not come to the shelter, we’re unsure if they would have been given the peaceful and painless end of humane euthanasia delivered by gentle, caring hands. After lives full of so much pain and neglect, that is the very least they deserved.
Memorial gifts in honor of Diego and Flaco will provide hay and necessary medical care for the remaining horses being rehabilitated at the River Road shelter.