Project offers hope for feral horses

A Summerland animal sanctuary is hoping a feral horse adoption program they are testing will be successful in solving the problem of wild horses roaming on the West Bench.

Feral horses graze on a section of land near Highway 97 south of Penticton this week. A Summerland agency is hoping an adoption program will help control the problems with the horses.

A Summerland animal sanctuary is hoping a feral horse adoption program they are testing will be successful in solving the problem of wild horses roaming on the West Bench.

“That would be certainly the long-term goal,” said Critteraid spokesperson Theresa Nolet. “There are many feral horses and not just restricted to these areas. I have had emails from a lady in Logan Lake and a person in Pemberton. This is a B.C.-wide issue.”

Last month a mare and stallion seized from rangeland near Deadman Lake were turned over to the Summerland-based rescue organization Critteraid, under the umbrella of Project Equus. 

Minister of Natural Resource Operations Steve Thomson directed the two horses be handed over to Critteraid without any costs attached. Thomson also directed ministry staff to review current legislation to help find a long-term solution to save any future feral horses from going to slaughter when rounded up. 

Nolet said a private citizen in Kelowna, Judy Colpitts, was instrumental in getting all the groups together to save a total of five horses from going to slaughter. Although there is no cost attached to receiving the horses, Nolet said Critteraid will experience considerable costs associated with their transportation, medical care, shelter and training. She estimates that it has cost Critteraid $1,200 to $1,500 so far and more if the animals aren’t adopted soon. 

“It is an expensive venture, so we are looking for donations. Our goal is to be able to work with the ministry past these initial horses and continue on with this project, but we cannot do that without financial support,” said Nolet.

For Nolet, the fact that action is beginning to be taken on feral horses is a success in itself.

“It is fabulous, but like anything else I realize this is not going to happen overnight. I have been working on this for two years, but the feral horse or free-roaming horse issue has been an ongoing issue here for 20-plus years. I think maybe the public is becoming more aware and conscious of the treatment of animals,” said Nolet.

If everything goes as planned the horses will be available for adoption for a fee through Critteraid. Anyone wanting to donate to Project Equus can do so through an online donation at www.critteraid.org. Donations are tax deductible. Critteraid is also looking for foster homes for the horses until they can be adopted.