At AERO we are committed to helping horses that are abused or neglected for the long-term. The following information is provided to those that have seen or suspect abuse or neglect. Please read all of the following before taking action. There are many scenarios and taking the proper steps can mean the difference between helping an animal long term and putting it in jeopardy again. Remember that the animal welfare investigators are EXTREMELY overloaded so only call on an animal after carefully considering if it is truly a neglect situation.

PLEASE KEEP IN MIND that animals can appear to be in poor condition but are being properly cared for with a medical condition that makes them look poor. Take in the whole picture when determining if it is a situation of concern and talk to the owner if possible before calling the authorities. If you see indicators that all the other animals are being cared for on the property and there is only one that looks poorly it is likely an aging or sick animal and not necessarily neglect. If an animal is seized by the authorities and the state is awarded custody then the animal is sent to the next public auction where it can be bought by a killer buyer - carefully consider and investigate before creating this potential. The first and best option where possible is owner education or a cooperative owner that allows removal voluntarily. If an owner cares but is short on money the best option is to try to assist the owner and call AERO so we can find it another home.

If you see a horse (or horses) that is abused or neglected and the owner does not seem co-operative....please be aware that the ONLY officials that are authorized to remove an animal without the owner's permission are:

Arizona Department of Agriculture - 602.542.0872, option 3
Maricopa County Sheriff (Animal Abuse Hotline) - 602.876.1681
Your local police department working with a rescue.

Rescue groups or individuals that remove an animal without owner consent are trespassing and stealing unless they go thru the legal process to seize a horse. Please involve proper authorities in order to protect the animal from being returned to that situation. The call volumes for the authorities are extremely high so if please call the rescue first to determine if it is appropriate to refer to authorities.

Things you can do if you see a case of abuse or neglect:

  • Familiarize yourself with the Arizona Statutes on animal cruelty.
  • If possible try to approach the owner and ask if you can help in any way. Do not put the owner on the defensive by saying they are abusing or neglecting their animal....this will make the situation worse! Do not approach an owner if you feel your well-being might be threatened.
  • If the owner is willing to be assisted provide them with the Sheriff's number (602.876.1212) or our number (623.465.1519) and information.
  • If the owner shows a pattern of abuse/neglect with multiple animals involved contact the above authorities IMMEDIATELY and do not approach the owner.
  • If you feel that any animal needs immediate medical attention and may not survive at least seven days for an investigator call 911.
  • DO NOT feed, doctor or otherwise interact with the animal. This opens you up to trespassing charges and possible liabilities that will not help the situation.
  • DO NOT enter another person's property without permission.

Things to look for that indicate abuse or neglect:

  • The animal does not have access to food or water or shade on a regular basis.
  • The animal seems lethargic or is lying down for long periods of time.
  • The animal's coat seems excessively shaggy or patchy with no shine indicating malnourishment.
  • The animal's feet are extremely long so that the toes are curling up.
  • The animal is not able to bear weight on one leg or is limping excessively (limping can indicate a known injury so be sure to look at the entire situation.)
  • The animal's ribs or hip bones are showing (remember that older horses naturally lose condition so look at the whole picture to determine if it is truly being starved).
  • The animal is bleeding or has a significant injury that is not being treated promptly.

Things that are NOT LEGALLY considered abuse or neglect - Please DO NOT call authorities in these situations:

  • An otherwise healthy animal being left alone.
  • An overweight animal.
  • An animal that is not blanketed in cold weather.
  • An animal that looks poorly but is being regularly cared for by the owner (many illnesses can cause a horse to lose condition).
  • An otherwise healthy animal that is not vaccinated or dewormed.
  • An otherwise healthy animal that does not have a lot of feed onsite (the amount of food does not determine level of care).
  • An animal in an outdoor stall with shade available.
  • An otherwise healthy animal that is in a small area or stall.
  • A hooved animal that has some chips or cracks but is not excessively long or oddly shaped and the horse is comfortably standing and moving.

Animal abuse or neglect can be a felony charge. Be sure to look at the Arizona Statutes to fully understand the state definition of what constitutes abuse or neglect. Remember that your ultimate goal is the well-being of the animal and the best way to achieve that is to either gain co-operation of the owner to remove the animal, help the owner get resources for the animal or involve the authorities if you feel it is a dangerous situation. There is a known pattern of animal abuse with other forms of violence against people so be cautious when getting involved and defer to authorities who are experts if you feel there is any danger to yourself or an animal.