Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Opinion

February 5, 2014

New menace

Wild horses growing problem in eastern Kentucky counties

ASHLAND — When hiking in the beautiful hills of this region, one should not be surprised to encounter black bears, a herd of elk and more deer than you can count. However, it is doubtful many hikers expect to see wild horses on the trail. After all, rampaging packs of wild horses may be a problem in some western states, but not in eastern Kentucky, right?  Wrong.

Officials in eastern Kentucky are trying to determine the best way to deal with a pack of wild horses that is causing property damage and traffic hazards. At a recent meeting of the Pike County Fiscal Court, Deputy Judge-Executive John Doug Hays said officials have tried tranquilizing the animals to capture them but have been unsuccessful so far.

“I want the people over there who are being bothered and damaged by these horses and subjected to unsafe conditions by these horses being on the highways to know that we’ve tried everything in the world,” Hays said. But nothing has been effective.

To be sure, the wild horses are unlikely to be found on the hilly trails that most hikers emjoy. Horses prefer grassy meadowlands to wooded trails. However, the large, relatively level grasslands created by moutaintop removal mining could appeal to packs of wild horses, just as they do elk herds

Pike County Solid Waste Commissioner Bobby Mullins suggested working with property owners to try to corral the horses in a fenced area. That may work, but what do you do with the fenced horses?

Mullins said the animals seem to be in search of food and he warned the animals could be dangerous.

“Another thing the court needs to realize is these horses are not like normal horses,” Mullins said. “Some of them, no one has ever had a halter on them and they’ve all been shot at, (had) rocks thrown at them and they’re wild.”

Hays said the horses would be caught somehow and cautioned people about purposely letting animals roam free.

“These horses are owned by someone,” he said. “I realize that times are tough, people have let animals go, they’re roaming loose, they can’t afford to feed them; but I believe that many of these horses would be claimed by someone if we could get ahold of them. We are going to get ahold of them, and the owner, then, when they attempt to claim, they are going to pay Pike County and this court for the cost that we’ve incurred in having to go over there and to capture these animals.”

Maybe the owners of these horses think they are doing the animals a favor by allowing them to run loose. After all, it is better than allowing horses to starve because they can’t afford feed for them.

But part of the responsibility of being an animal owner is feeding them. If feed is too costly, donating the horses to a horse rescue operation or giving them away is better than just turning them loose to be a public nuisance and possibly a danger to people, other animals  and motor vehicles.

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