Abandoned Horses Create Real Problems

Help is needed to try and find the owners who dumped three horses in the TRNP. 


Abandoned horses are a problem for the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora. While some people might believe they are doing the right thing by abandoning a horse, the reality is just the opposite—abandoned horses create many problems for themselves and the ecosystem they are abandoned into.

In 2010 the park identified two yearlings that had been dumped into the park from the north gate on North River Road. Because they were covered in warts, they were euthanized immediately.

Last month there were three more horses that were discovered abandoned at the national park.

The staff at TRNP meticulously catalogues every wild horse in the park, so they were able to immediately identify the deserted horses May 10.

When domestic horses are found abandoned, the people who find them usually only have two choices, sell the horses at auction or euthanize them on the spot. Fortunately for the three horses, park officials were able to lead them into a catch pen and they were placed in a rescue through TRNP’s partnership with North Dakota Badlands Horse, a non-profit organization in Mandan that promotes, advocates for and registers the wild horses in TRNP. If they hadn’t located a home, the three likely would have been euthanized.

Besides the threat of euthanasia, domestic horses can endanger themselves and those around them through transmitting diseases or encroaching on a wild animal’s domain which can lead to fights and possibly being killed by larger animals like bison.

The main reason most abandoned horses are put down is because national parks and other places horses are usually left don’t have the budget to care for and treat discarded animals.

According to a 2009 survey of horse rescue facilities by the Unwanted Horse Coalition, one horse will cost $2,300 annually; and that doesn’t factor in extra veterinary care and treatment to get the horses up to a healthy level.

While there are numerous horse rescue facilities in the country, according to that same survey by the Unwanted Horse Coalition almost 40 percent of the facilities are at maximum capacity and another 30 percent are nearly full. On average, horse rescue facilities have to turn down 38 percent of all the horses that are brought to them. When you also factor in the life expectancy of a horse—30 years—coupled with the fact most facilities rely on donations to stay in business, it’s understandable that these facilities are overwhelmed.

The three horses that were discovered at TRNP were likely dumped at the Painted Canyon overlook the night of May 10, according to the park. They were most likely left by someone living east of the park because that is the way the horses wanted to go.

It is a felony to dump unwanted animals in a national park.

If you have any information on who dumped their companion animals in a national park, please contact North Dakota Badlands Horse on Facebook. Also, if you would like to help with this national problem, please contact your nearest horse rescue facility, as there is always a need for volunteers or donations.

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