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How much “should” you spend on treatment?

This is a moral/ethical topic, and I want to see other people’s opinions. Based on a real case but keeping this strictly hypothetical.

Imagine one is a rescue organisation. You have xxx horses in care / foster / adopted out. Money is tight, hay is tighter, people are struggling with basics: rent/interest, fuel, food.

You get a surrender case, a young horse. Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong (medically). Horse has been in ICU for at least two weeks. The bill is currently around $10k (give or take). Every dollar comes from donations. Horse has been to the brink of death and back, and has complications.

At what point would you (should you?) go: no more. To save one, we could have saved four, five, six?

No wrong answers. I’m not questioning the rescue’s commitment to the horse in question.

But I want to know what others think. Do you keep going against the mighty cheque book, when you have obligations to so many other lives in your care?

I’m not talking about a rich owner laying out a house payment to save a racehorse - your money, your decisions. I’m talking about a charity.

We are in drought here. Horses are being given away to the doggers in mobs, off stations and back properties. Cattle are the sane due to feed and fire. My hay bill is double - if I can get it.

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The math for rescues is different than the math for regular folks.

Regular folks: it’s a factor of what you can afford, what the horse is worth, and the prospective useful life and quality of the horse.

Rescues: it’s a factor of how much social media marketing traction and fund raising they can get from taking on impossible cases versus the practical outcome.

Most regular folks would not do colic surgery on a 25 year old horse, or do extreme orthopedic work on a foal with birth defects, etc. Or head out to the auction for another half dozen horses when they don’t have cash for winter hay for the existing horses.

But having a good “story” that plays on IG and Tiktok and FB may be the most important thing to some rescues.


If there is no reasonable chance of recovery (to a comfortable life) then the correct answer is The price of humane euthanasia and body disposal.

If there is a reasonable chance of full recovery, then what the rescue or individual can afford without impacting the well-being of other animals/people.

My personal opinion is that these stories of damn near dead or completely crippled to sort of okish as a pasture ornament via many thousands of donated dollars are an unsavoury way to raise money for rescuing animals. I wish they didn’t work as well as they seem to work :confused: and that there were another method for raising money to be able to help a greater number of animals in need. <- personal opinion/wish, not based on raising money for charity, not based in real world, not based on the things that drive people to throw money at causes.


I have a directly related story.
Our vet asked us to help a local horse rescue with a sheriff case where 7 horses were found starving, an old couple was in serious financial and mental trouble and was not caring properly for their animals or themselves, a sad situation.
The rescue involved was taking in the 7 horses, but only had room for 2, needed a place for 5 others and in the summer we were rarely using the cattle working pens, could the rescue keep the horses there, they would feed and care for them until they could move them.

We felt we needed to help and agreed.
Our horses, broodmares, stallions and horses in training were at headquarters, so would not be exposed to the rescue horses.

Well, that rescue ended up not coming all the way to those pens, not caring and feeding, we had to do that, furnish the feed and pay the vet for necessary supplies, vet was giving his time to help care for the horses that needed vet care.
When the horses came, there was this one mare with a very bad cut above her hoof, that was very deep and terribly infected, past what vet care could handle.
The vet and us assumed they would euthanize her, but no one was coming from the rescue to look at the horses, until the vet gave them an ultimatum and the rescue main lady came by.
Vet was talking to her, explaining the mare was in pain, could hardly get around and was not eating, needed euthanizing.
Rescue lady said we can’t do that, she is so bad is a perfect poster child and her terribly needy situation is bringing many donations in for all.
She practically told the vet to keep her alive as long as he could, they needed her for their TV stories to ask for help for their rescue.
That didn’t set too well with vet and us, he told her in no uncertain terms to come get those horses immediately and that he was reporting her and her rescue to animal control!
Lady came right away and took the horses.
Vet and us felt so sorry for them and wish we had handled things a bit differently.
After that we were wary of rescues in general, knowing that some times those can also do wrong for horses, for their own strange reasons, money one of those, as noted above, ours a sad example.


Having had horses in catastrophic life or death situations, this is an impossible question to answer.

What seems clear and logical now is never how it goes down in the moment.

Also, you never truly know what the final balance for the medical treatment will be until it’s over.

When you are removed from the situation, it’s easy to say, “I will only spend $X dollars,” but what usually happens is the vet bill balance grows over days or weeks as unexpected issues arise. Those setbacks, no matter how minor, add up in cost. Yet it’s hard to quit treatment on a horse who has improved. You are emotionally invested, plus you’ve already spent thousands of dollars by that point, so what’s another $X, especially if it works. No one wants to euthanize a horse who is progressing in the right direction just because they have crossed an arbitrary financial threshold.

I know some rescues can be cuckoo bananas about animals surviving at all costs, which makes it easy to question their motivation. But as a sensible owner who has been in these situations, I can attest that there are often no good options. No one removed from the situation has the ability to determine the “right” amount of money to spend on treatment.


I’ve seen a decent number of rescues keep horses going long past where I feel they should. This is not even necessarily financial, but based on the animal’s quality of life. Sure, Pookie is alive after surviving horrible abuse or neglect, but he can barely walk…

I do think a big driver of this is the donations drawn in by a sad story, but also the fact that many rescue type organizations seem to acquire followers who obsessively love horses even though they may not have much actual experience with them. These people tend to be very anti-euthanasia no matter what the reasoning. Everything must be kept alive at all costs! No precious animals may die! The same type of people in dog rescue ends up with the warehousing of dangerous dogs because surely somebody’s looooove will be able to fix them. These people cannot recognize that sometimes death is the kindest thing.


I agree… for privately-owned horses. For a charity begging for money, I feel there just needs to be someone objective.

(Says the person who is pouring feed and hay into a palliative-care horse because I can, and I’m not ready to say farewell)

I really do hope the little horse pulls through and makes a little girl or boy very happy as a pony club mount in his future.


I agree but I also maintain it’s not always easy to be objective.

I’d have a problem if I donated money for a horse’s treatment and they pulled the plug prematurely due to lack of funds. I think a lot of donors would.

I think a rescue’s biggest responsibility is knowing their limits. Many are anti-euthanasia, and I feel like that is a irresponsible stance. In clear cut situations where the prognosis is poor and euthanasia is recommended, I personally feel it’s irresponsible to try to crowdfund treatment.

But so many equine emergencies are not clear cut. You may not know what you are dealing with initially, or you may think a conservative treatment option will be successful… only to have the situation snowball. In which case, it can be hard to be objective whether you are a rescue or private owner.


Good point.

I would like to think that volume of animals seen and treated puts rescue folks in the same zone as livestock folks and livestock folks absolutely have a really good understanding of costs of vet treatments and of irreconcilable suffering.

Rescues are not, and should not be Joe Horse Owner who hasn’t a clue that a week of ICU is going to cost X or that on-fam vet visits twice a day for 2 weeks is going to cost Y.

I wish they were also not, when it comes to trying to get horses to live, 30-year-old former motorcycle racers playing on Z-50s in the back parking lot yelling “I can save it” as they are crashing and milliseconds from skidding into the neighbours’ fence.

In terms of clear and logical - it sure should be after having had a volume of animals go through care one becomes accustomed to making more rational decisions. It becomes easier the more times you’re accidentally swung the wrong way and allowed prolonged suffering.

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Which speaks more about their methods of fundraising and people’s attachment to their dollahdollahs than it does to humane treatment of animals :confused:

I don’t think it does.

I didn’t mean “truck is coming” type tactics, trying to guilt people into donating by pulling at their heart strings.

I mean, let’s say a young, otherwise useful horse in a rescue’s care needed surgery. Let’s say I donated to that surgery and it was performed. Then let’s say the horse developed non-fatal complications after the surgery, and instead of treating it, they euthanized because they already exceeded what they were going to spend. That would irk me, because while there are no guaranteed outcomes, everyone just wasted a bunch of resources.

People may argue that’s not how these situations play out, but I disagree. That’s exactly how most medical situations occur. You think you are only treating X, but Y and Z usually crop up, too. It’s easy when you are removed from the situation to set objective dollar amounts for treatment, but when you are faced with Y and Z and a you’ve already spent thousands of dollars on X, it’s never clear cut on how to proceed.


I often feel that horse and sometimes dog rescues spend way too much money to save one poor soul when they could better use the funds elsewhere. Of course these are the cases they put out there to gather more donations, so it’s hard to say how the finances of it all work out in the end (did they get $15k of new donations for the horse that needed $10k worth of treatment? Money that wouldn’t have come in under normal conditions?)


People need to understand that money is not magic and there is not an endless supply of it just because some of their money went toward an effort to do something good.

If we can’t give gifts without expecting something we want in return, we should not be giving gifts.

Total tangent, but you just reminded me of one of my huge pet peeves that seems to come up more with dog/cat/companion animal rescues:

Some rescues will take in animals that are not suitable companion animals for whatever reason. Aggressive, poorly socialized, maybe they have bitten… and then they will guilt people into supporting them. “Pookie is a 6 year old 100lb rescue who can’t be around men, children, other dogs, or cats without trying to kill them… but please open your home and your wallet to Pookie! If you don’t, you are as bad as the scum who caused Pookie to become this hot mess!” Ok, obviously I ventured into hyperbole at the end, but that’s how I honestly feel when reading some of these ads.

I’m not implying that horse rescues are necessarily better rooted in reality, but horses at least don’t live in your house.


And sadly, the people most likely to be involved in animal rescue are also the personality types that are least likely to be objective.

I have a very negative view of animal rescues. Sure, there are some that I would consider to be sensibly run by ethical, knowledgeable people. But the reality is that most of them are run by crooks, hoarders, or bleeding hearts who operate on pure emotion with no trace of logic or sense.

Anyway, to respond to the OP’s question, under the conditions specified, IMO, a good rescue (by my standards) would have euthanized the horse almost immediately.


I don’t give money to many rescues because all too often they are raising money to save the ones who are not going to have a happy ending even if you keep them alive.
I’d give money in a heartbeat to a rescue that made it its business model put the old and the chronically lame down and used their resources to rehab the young horses who had a chance at being useful. I won’t give money to any rescue that spends thousands on prosthetics on a foal or any of that nonsense. It’s a money grab and it’s just dooming an animal to a life of misery to what end? Fundraising. Animals live in the here and now. They deserve a good day and a peaceful passing not years of gimping around in some pasture with questionable care and photo ops.


Here is a rescue that put down a debilitated old pony. (warning - video of the process)

I put these three thing separately because really it doesn’t matter if people are struggling to provide for themselves? As you said the money comes from donations and those donors let the rescue decided where that money goes. They give freely and willingly.

What “I” think really has no merit. Personally I think rescues save too many and spend far too much of their donated monies on horses that should be euthanized. I think they should set their sights on rehabbing the ones who can serve a purpose and be useful to the one adopting it. Some are looking for a companion horse but those are really a small number. Many people want to ride.

I may be alone in my thinking but we have a nearby large animal rescue and looking at all the horses a big majority of them have " issues" many of them soundness and all they do is eat up resources as they remain unadoptable.


To me the moral obligation is less about the $$ and more about putting the horse through surgeries, icu, rehabs, stall rest etc and at what point do you call it quits.
The horse doesn’t understand that you’re trying to do what’s best for him and that after a year of torture maybe he or she will feel better. They just understand pain now or not in pain now.
I feel like rescues and other folks go way too far and put these horses through way too much for the sake of a story on Facebook or the pride of not “giving up.”