Sometimes dogs and cats outlive their humans. Horses, who have longer lifespans than dogs or cats, are even more likely to outlive their humans. . . . Who cares for horses when their humans are gone?
We're seeing more legal structures in the US and the UK that support and enforce the care of companion animals after owners are gone.
In the US, changes of laws at the state level are making it easier to ensure that instructions for care of an individual animal are enforced according to an owner's last will, and also that funds designated in a trust for "after-owner" care remain in place to do so.
California joins the list of states with legally-enforceable pet trusts with the passage of SB 685, which will take effect in January 2009. Almost a dozen states still don't allow trusts for the care of individual animals!
You can find articles about horse legislation, welfare, and health at Recent News on TheHorse.com.
Here in the US, one group that helps horse owners set up "after-owner" finances and care management is Horse Trusts. They are attorneys at law who draft estate plans and legal instructions for creating trusts. If you'd like a starter packet for a horse trust, you can email or call them at 877-928-7887.
Horse Trusts points out the wisdom of purchasing a life insurance policy to fund a horse's trust: "Horses are expensive to keep and live long lives. Unless you are a person of considerable means, we suggest contacting your insurance agent and purchasing a fixed-term life insurance policy on yourself to fund the trust."
In the UK, there is an animal charity organization called The Horse Trust that was established in 1886 to help the working horses in London. It is the oldest horse charity in the world.
At The Horse Trust homepage is a PDF of the June 2008 "National Equine Welfare Protocol" — which includes horses, ponies, donkeys, hinnies, mules, and other equids. The document subtitle states "The prevention of equine suffering and neglect, and when necessary their rapid remediation, are the paramount considerations."
Paramount, indeed. Pawse and think about the UK org's statement of "Five Freedoms for Horses":
1. Freedom from Hunger and Thirst – by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.
2. Freedom from Discomfort – by providing an appropriate environment, including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
3. Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease – by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.
4. Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour – by providing sufficient space, proper facilities, and company of the animal's own kind.
5. Freedom from Fear and Distress – by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.