Commentary

December 6, 2013

Garrison commander addresses animal adoption concerns

Dan McFarland
Commanding, USAG Fort Huachuca

To our community,
Over the last several months, the U.S. Army Garrison, or USAG, published our intent to adopt-out five horses and a donkey from the Buffalo Corral Riding Stables. For various health reasons, if not adopted, these animals may be euthanized.

In October of this year, one of the post veterinarians examined each animal. At the time, the vet graded four of the horses 4/5 lame. The fifth horse is 3/5 lame. The donkey, while not examined, is incontinent and in its end-stage of life. Combined, these animals cost about $30,000 a year in feed.

Recently, members of the community asked, “ … why these animals cannot live out their remaining days at the corral? After all, they served our Soldiers and Families well!” Another patron raised the idea of a sponsorship program. The sponsorship would allow several members of the community to donate monthly amounts as opposed to taking on the full burden of adoption. Others expressed concern over the limited time before the adoption deadline.

In response to community concerns, we pushed the adoption date to Jan. 15, 2014. Additionally, we reviewed the legal issues involved with a sponsorship program. Generally, when the government no longer has a need for government horses they must be sold or adopted.

For various legal reasons, a sponsorship program that does not clearly assign ownership to an individual or group is not an option. Without clear ownership, the government remains liable. The “split interest” inherent in any sponsorship-like program makes it difficult for the government to exercise appropriate and timely decision authority if the animals’ health changes.

In researching the legal aspects of a sponsorship program, we rediscovered our legal obligation to determine if the horses can be humanely adopted.

I’ve asked our vet clinic to do another assessment of each animal. I’m leaving it to the clinic experts to define “humane.” As with the examinations in October, the definition of humane will involve some grading of lameness. In the end, the vet will attempt to measure animal quality of life and pain.

Our goal is, and will always be, to do what’s best for these animals. In determining what’s best, I must make tough decisions within legal and regulatory guidance. Because we are stewards of government resources, I’m obligated to consider cost. In this particular case, cost is only one factor; quality of life of the animals is another.




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