Encinitas horsewoman busy with equine rescue network

Cross-posted from the North County Times

Shirley Puga by Hayne Palmour IV
Shirley Puga, who is the executive director and founder of the National Equine Resource Network, stands with Abby, right, a rescued horse, and Dilly at the Walnut Grove Equestrian Center in San Marcos on Thursday. (Photo by Hayne Palmour IV - NC Times Staff photographer)


    Abby is one lucky horse.

    A gentle, 17-year old quarter horse raised in a riding school in Oregon, Abby was on her way to a slaughterhouse by way of a feedlot in Nevada three years ago when Encinitas horsewoman Shirley Puga stepped in to save her life.

    Puga, who founded the National Equine Resource Network in late 2009, has saved more than 800 horses from the slaughterhouse.

    “People think of horses as disposable,” said Cathy Dameron (Abby’s adopted owner). “They overbreed them, especially quarter horses. They dump racehorses that don’t win any more. There are even people who leave behind their horses when their house is foreclosed on.”

    Each year in the United States, tens of thousands of healthy horses are sent to Canada and Mexico to be slaughtered for their meat, groups such as Puga’s have learned.

    Most of the doomed animals are riding horses, carriage horses, racehorses and children’s ponies that are bought cheaply at auctions and from private sellers and then sent across the border to be slaughtered, processed and sold as food to other countries such as France and Japan that consider horse meat a delicacy. By some estimates, more than 100,000 American horses are slaughtered every year.

    For Puga, Dameron and other horse lovers, any number is many too many.

    “It seems an unfair fate for the animal that has, throughout history, given so much to mankind,” wrote Puga in a public statement announcing the launch of her nonprofit National Equine Resource Network. “Fields were plowed, battles were won, new frontiers were discovered and nations were built — all on the back of a horse.”

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