HARPS is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded in 2001 by nationally recognized animal advocate, Donna Ewing, who played a key role in the passage of the 1973 Humane Care of Animals Act. The mission of HARPS is to continue promoting and providing humane treatment for animals – specifically horses and other hooved animals – through rescue, rehabilitation, education, and legislation. In pursuing its cause, HARPS strives to make a positive impact on humanity as a whole.
As a longstanding resource for horse and farm animal welfare, HARPS has carried out hundreds of rescue, rehabilitation, and adoption missions. For example, in 2008, HARPS oversaw the rescue, rehabilitation, and adoption of the 40 Belgian draft horses that survived the horrific double-decker trailer accident in Wadsworth, IL, in which 19 horses were killed. In 2014, HARPS led the rescue and adoption of 75 abandoned and neglected Quarter Horses in Hampshire, IL. HARPS also carries out singular and small rescues – an abandoned donkey in a backyard, or a small herd of starving goats left behind when the owners moved.
On a daily basis, HARPS receives calls from concerned citizens about possible cases of neglect and starvation. Each call is screened, and if warranted, state certified investigators are sent to the location of the animal(s) in jeopardy. HARPS works closely with animal control, law enforcement, and the Illinois Department of Agriculture to secure justice for abused animals. If owners refuse to abide by the state humane laws the animal may be impounded and a hearing in the circuit court may be set. Thirty percent of our investigations can be resolved through owner/caregiver education and supervision. Owner/caregiver refusal to comply with Illinois law will result in legal action and animal impoundment.
HARPS’ rescue facility serves the needs of impounded neglected and/or abused horses and other hooved animals. Abused animals are taken to our rehabilitation farm where they are assessed, and then provided all necessary veterinary treatment and starvation refeeding diet. The animals are assessed by licensed veterinarians and provided 24-hour care during initial recovery process.
Once restored to health, they are evaluated for adoption. Horses not appropriate for adoption are given life-long sanctuary at our facility.
HARPS also offers an Assisted Adoption Program that acts as an adoption network for those who solicit our aid in non-emergency circumstances, such loss of job or owner death, in finding homes for their horses and other hooved animals.
Breaking the cycle of animal abuse is inextricably connected to education. HARPS provides educational clinics, seminars, one-on-one seminars, telephonic consultations, and an extensive online resource library for the general public to increase knowledge and understanding of proper care and treatment of horses and farm animals. In addition, HARPS assists local emergency first responders in dealing with situations involving loose horses or other farm animals.
The rehabilitation successes HARPS has carried out in bringing animals back to life from near-death conditions have led to the creation of the HARPS Equine Assisted Learning Program. Using a model of pragmatism and inspiration, the Equine Assisted Learning Program is an inspirational experience for children during their own rehabilitation and works with educators and counselors to provide therapeutic experiences for underserved youth, children with autism spectrum disorders, and other special needs individuals.
HARPS continues to bring this awareness and first-hand experience to others. In an effort to break the cycle of violence for children and animals, our education program allows children and adults the opportunity to engage and interact with our rescued residents awaiting adoption. Teaching future generations about stewardship of the land and its fellow creatures allows for stimulating, healthy activities that will help open new avenues for learning, and new possibilities for life’s work while building confidence and self-esteem through interacting with these impressive animals.
The rehabilitation success we have experienced with animals in near-death condition, brought back to vibrant health with proper care, is an inspirational experience for people. Visits to our facility can offer real hope and a powerful visual representation that loving care and understanding, diligent work, and the unselfish help of others can bring about remarkable change for both humans and our animal partners.
Here at HARPS we have over seventy collaborative years of experience in rescuing horses. The main goals of our organization continue to be the rescue, protection and rehabilitation of abused horses and other hooved animals, as well as educational and legislative advocacy.
Racehorse History and Current Events:
More than two dozen top horse trainers at Gulfstream were charged by feds in a widespread horse-doping scandal on March 9. Among those accused is Jason Servis, trainer of champion Maximum Security—one of the fastest racehorses in the world.
Authorities are describing the doping scandal as a widespread international scheme to drug horses to make them race faster. While this news may shock some, the reality of horse doping goes back decades.
The first year a horse was disqualified from the Kentucky Derby for the use of banned substances was 1968. Despite the consequences that befell Dancer’s Image, the disqualified horse, the illegal doping of horses has persisted. Last Monday, the 2019 Kentucky Derby’s unofficial winner Maximum Security suffered the same fate.
Horse doping is the illegal application of any substance other than a normal diet that modifies the natural abilities of an animal during a race. Like a human athlete taking performance-enhancing drugs prior to an event, doping a horse can make it faster or stronger.
This is a problem.
Not only because horse racing is a national industry that, like human sports, depends on the honest capabilities of those competing, but also because horses are unable to speak up for themselves and don’t understand why their bodies are experiencing the changes brought on by drugs.
Worse than the rigging of races is the injury that can occur to the horses who have been drugged so heavily that they can’t feel pain while racing; they push their bodies so hard that their legs literally break beneath them. It’s dangerous for the horses and the jockeys—no one wins in the long-term from this type of animal abuse.
“Racing used to be based on the speed of the horse, not based on the amount of Speed in the horse,” says founder of Hooved Animal Rescue & Protection Society (HARPS) Donna Ewing.
After recognizing the widespread abuse of both backyard horses and racehorses, Ewing dedicated her life to activism. In 1973, she played a key role in the passage of the Humane Care for Animals Act, which gives state-approved humane investigators the authority to inspect and impound abused animals. The act remains the most stringent animal-welfare law in the U.S.
By 1978, she and animal activist Bob Baker exposed the truth behind horse doping in the racing industry through publishing the book The Misuse of Drugs in Horse Racing, which led to a television broadcast expose on 60 Minutes on the same subject.
Ewing and Baker hoped that educating the public would prevent future horse doping. The events of last week show that there is still room to improve.
The 27 trainers, veterinarians and drug distributors recently charged in New York are accused of crimes ranging from misbranding conspiracy to drug adulteration. Reports find their goal was “to improve race performance on tracks in New York, New Jersey, Florida, Ohio, Kentucky” and more, according to the Daily Beast.
“That’s atrocious. Their motive was to improve race performance? The goal should be to raise healthy horses that can race on their own merit, without being altered by chemicals, “said daughter of Donna Ewing and HARPS president Ronda Ewing. “That’s what my mother wanted for the horses back in the 70s, and it’s what we both want for them today.”
Whether more significant changes will be made in lieu of last week’s events is yet to be seen. Until more is revealed, Ronda Ewing remains optimistic.
“Progress can be slow, but it’s worth it. I’d love to see a future of honest racing and properly cared for animals. That’s what HARPS is all about,” she said.