- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 31, 2003

LISBON, Md. — After 14 years of rescuing abused horses, Allan and Kathleen Schwartz are rarely surprised by human behavior.

From cruel starvation to stunning donations, they have seen it all.

So, when it comes to saving their Days End Farm Horse Rescue, the Schwartzes are setting their sights high.

They want someone to give them a farm.

It need not be huge — 50 acres would do — but it must have outbuildings, stalls and a residence; something in the $1.5 million-to-$2 million range.

There is no irony in Mr. Schwartz’s tone as he muses about such a gift. To continue its mission, Days End must move from the 18 crowded acres, 25 miles west of Baltimore, that it has leased since 1994. The white stables and fenced pastures are part of a 180-acre farm that the owner is trying to sell intact.

“What we need is someone to donate a farm or send us big sacks of cash,” Mr. Schwartz says.

He is blunt, determined and confident — qualities that have helped make Days End a model for horse-rescue operations around the country.

Such farms, dedicated to restoring the health of abused animals, are part of a larger movement based on the idea that horses deserve to live and die with dignity. Other organizations promote adoption of horses — especially racing breeds — that might otherwise be sold for slaughter.

For Mr. Schwartz, a burly 49-year-old with a graying beard and ponytail, and Kathy, his tall, blonde wife, it’s been a journey of discovery. The former District-based appliance dealers owned two riding horses but knew little about saving abused equines in 1989 when they took custody of Toby, an emaciated animal stabled at the same boarding facility as theirs.

“We took it on to get it better,” Mr. Schwartz said. “Then someone told us about another horse, and one thing led to another.”

They started keeping the animals at the 10-acre Howard County farm, Days End, that they and their four children had moved to several years earlier. After nursing the ill horses back to health, they would adopt them out.

“Every time a new horse arrived, we built a new barn,” Mrs. Schwartz said.

Their reputation spread among local humane societies and animal control agencies, but the Schwartzes considered their horse rescue a sideline.

“Having no clue, we kind of thought, well, how many horses are there that could be mistreated?” Mr. Schwartz said.

Then a Baltimore television station did a feature on the farm, and the phone started ringing. Mr. Schwartz recalled one case, called in by a horse owner’s neighbor, of three diseased horses in stalls filled with manure 4 feet deep. The animals had lost their hair and were covered with sores from contact with their waste.

The local animal control agency had nowhere to impound large animals, so the Schwartzes took them, a move that set the future course for Days End.

The couple learned that in Maryland, a state with the nation’s second-highest per-capita horse ownership, only one of the 23 counties, Carroll, had an impoundment stable for horses seized in abuse cases.

The Schwartzes saw a need that surpassed their capacity. So they sold their store, sold their farm, cashed in their retirement savings and, in 1994, leased from a neighboring grain farmer the stables of a former thoroughbred breeding operation on his property.

Days End houses 50 to 60 horses at any one time and averages more than 100 a year. It has a paid staff of eight, a steady stream of mostly young volunteers and an outreach program, the Equine Rescue and Rehabilitation Information Network, that trains animal-control officers from across the United States.

“Our focus is animal-control impoundments. We don’t take give-ups. We don’t buy horses,” Mr. Schwartz said. In that respect, Days End differs from organizations such as the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, based in Shrewsbury, N.J., which promotes adoption of retired racehorses to prevent their slaughter. While Mr. Schwartz said he would rather see a horse adopted than slaughtered, “to say that we can do it all is a fallacy.”

The Schwartzes’ work includes traveling to courtrooms around the state to testify in abuse cases. It also includes getting up as much as four times a night to feed starving animals that have been brought to the farm.

The Schwartzes found no rules for setting up their operation, so they wrote one, “Guidelines for Establishing a Horse Rescue Facility,” in 1996.

“I think they serve as a model for a lot of rescues that start up,” said Kristen Pagelsen, spokeswoman for the American Horse Protection Association in Washington. “They do an excellent job and we consider them to be quite a good rescue.”

She said Days End was among 33 equine rescue organizations on her group’s first list, published in 1992. The association now lists 99 rescues in the United States and eight in Canada and the United Kingdom.

Mr. Schwartz said Days End charges animal control agencies $5 per horse per day for impoundments. That’s about $150 a month, only a fraction of the $250 to $450 per month it costs to house and care for the animals. Other revenues in the farm’s $600,000 annual budget come from adoption fees, cash gifts and sales of donated tack such as used saddles and bridles.

“One guy donated 38 Armani suits and 100 silk ties,” a gift that brought in $4,800, Mr. Schwartz said.

The Schwartzes live humbly, in a 33-foot trailer they moved into after staffers, computers and filing cabinets filled up their leased, two-story white farmhouse.

The trailer may be cramped, “but you know what? It’s nice, because you don’t have lot of stuff to clean,” Mr. Schwartz said. “We just need a place to sleep, a place to eat and place to shower. It’s a lot less work.”

And a little more time for saving horses.

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