Susan Wagner, president of Equine Advocates Rescue & Sanctuary, stands with Pensacola Pete, a donkey that was rescued by the organization in 2015.
CHATHAM – After 15 years working in the horse racing industry, Sue Wagner rescued her first horse from slaughter in 1994.
Since then, she has not looked back.
“I couldn’t handle it,” she said. “I just thought to myself, ‘If a horse becomes injured – whether by racing or being used for rides – that is no reason to send them to the slaughterhouse.’”
Two years later, she founded Equine Advocates, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting horses, ponies, donkeys and mules.
“I decided I wanted to use my experience toward helping horses that were treated inhumanely,” she said. “I saw that a lot of the horses in the horse industry – not just racing, but all other horse industries – were sent to the slaughterhouse after they outlived their use.”
In 2004 she established Equine Advocates Rescue & Sanctuary, located at 3212 State Route 66 in Chatham. The 140-acre sanctuary now offers shelter to 80 horses, ponies, donkeys and mules, most of which were rescued from slaughter, abuse and/or neglect.
At the sanctuary, every horse has a story, and every horse represents an industry where they have been exploited, killed inhumanely, abandoned or neglected.
“We rescued quite a few from slaughter and placed many not just at our own place, but in other organizations all over the country,” Wagner said. “All of these horses, or most of them, were rescued from terrible situations. The horses that are coming here are horses that have nobody to speak for them. The horses that we have that are slaughter-bound, abandoned, some of them were seized by police in cruelty cases.”
There’s Bobby II Freedom, a former New York City carriage horse that was rescued from slaughter in a kill pen in New Holland, Pennsylvania, in 2010. He has permanent scars on his throat latch and muzzle, and wears special shoes to keep his balance, Wagner said.
And there’s Pensacola Pete, a donkey that was abandoned by ranchers and found walking alongside the road in Pensacola, Florida, in 2015.
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