Oregon Hay Bank needs donations

Charity offers help to equine owners unable to buy animal food because of the downturn

The Oregon Hay Bank is struggling to save the lives of starving equines across the state. But more donations of cash, hay and labor are desperately needed to save more animals, officials say.

In difficult economic times, horses, ponies, donkeys and mules often are abandoned and neglected as their owners struggle to keep food on the table or a roof over their heads.

How you can donate

To arrange for donations of hay or cash to the Oregon Hay Bank, contact oregonhaybank@gmail.com or oregonhorsewelfarecouncil.org, or call Julie Fritz at 541-671-0164. Hay may be delivered locally at 4723 Highway 66, Ashland. Call Linda Davis at 541-482-5550.

The hay bank was formed in January 2009 and operates in conjunction with the Oregon Horse Welfare Council. Delivery amounts can range from a ton or more to help out overburdened equine shelters to a few bales to help an individual in need, said Julie Fritz, chairwoman of the hay bank committee.

"In Jackson County, 13 separate families and individuals have received 15 tons of hay since we started," said Fritz.

Unlike dogs and cats who are more easily cared for — or placed in new homes or shelters — horses require large outdoor spaces and are significantly more expensive to properly care for, said Linda Davis, director of the Equamore Foundation, a horse shelter in Ashland.

The hay bank helps horses across the state. But most of the need has come from Douglas, Jackson and Multnomah counties, said Fritz.

Across state lines, horse lovers, farmers and ranchers are helping fill Oregon's hay bank with donations of grass hay —and even offering fields to grow it in, Davis said.

In Northern California, some 400 acres of land that have been sitting fallow are now being prepared for cultivation. New pumps for the irrigation system are being installed and the owner has agreed to grow hay for horse rescue, Davis said.

Pam and Charles Boyer of Eagle Point recently donated 2 tons of hay to Equamore to help the foundation and others within the hay bank system, said Davis.

Pam Boyer said they raise sheep and grass hay on their Agate Road ranch and also have four draft horses. Their 2-ton donation will grow to a total of 10 tons once another field is harvested, she said.

"We're horse people," she said. "And we also know how hard this economy has been for some people."

Horse owners who have no current need for the hay bank can help solve the problem of starving horses with a relatively small regular donation, Fritz said.

"If every horse owner within the state would donate the cost of one bale per ton they purchase, we would have no need for the hay bank," she said.

Individuals who would like to receive the free food must send in an application to the hay bank, and meet specific criteria, including having a plan for sustainability.

"We support conscientious, responsible breeding," said Fritz. "If you can't feed it, don't breed it."

Recipients cannot have an ongoing or open case of animal abuse or neglect pending against them and they are required to allow an on-site visit from a member of the hay bank, Fritz said.

"We do have people out there who are habitual problems for animal control," she said. "Sometimes it is a good solution to give the horses up."

But if owners demonstrate they are responsible horse owners who have simply fallen on hard times, the bank is there to help them through it, she said. Owners also can get help with minor veterinary issues such as discounted rates for worming and dental care for the animal, she said.

The goal, if possible, is to keep the animals with their owners and not further overburden the equine rescue facilities, Fritz said.

Those who are given free hay are asked if they can help replace the stores they used, Fritz said.

"It's not a requirement," she said. "But holding can drives, bake sales and placing "Pennies for Ponies" cans in local banks are all good ways of giving back."

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.

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