As the economic crisis worsens, the loss of homes for so many has yielded an unprecedented rise in animal abandonment. The expense of housing and caring for horses and other large domesticated animals has proven too much for many Americans, and now the animals face slaughter if they cannot find adoption or sanctuary.

Responding to this crisis, Lompoc’s wild horse sanctuary, Return to Freedom-an organization begun in 1997 that’s devoted to finding new owners and care for countless homeless horses-is trying desperately to get the word out about the numerous deserted horses.

“For cats and dogs, there is a shelter system,” said Return to Freedom’s Jill Anderson. While disowned house pets often find their way to the ASPCA and into a system of pet stores that house smaller animals and campaign for adoption, there is no similar system in place to help abandoned horses. The expense and space requirements of housing larger animals make any kind of shelter system very daunting, Anderson said.

This makes the problem ongoing, Anderson explained. A recent disowned horse brought to her attention is Pendleton, an ex-competing jumper on the Grand Prix circuit. The fact that a veteran equine athlete such as Pendleton ended up homeless reveals the direness of the economic situation.

Even victories for Return to Freedom, such as the recent securing of new homes for 52 wild horses from Nevada that were facing slaughter, are short-lived by the ongoing nature of the work. Anderson said 12 mustangs lost their homes on March 1, and the organization needs all the help it can find. Return to Freedom, which currently houses more than 200 wild horses and burros, unfortunately is at capacity.

Return to Freedom has created a blog to give voices to horses in jeopardy. Even if you don’t have the space or the means to open your home, or can’t afford to make a donation, you can help the cause by forwarding the blog to friends and spreading the word. Visit for more information


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