The United States Equine Rescue League is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the compassionate care of horses and other equines.
Deb Carl, 42, of Matthews estimates about 10 horses have been returned since 2007 for reasons she attributes to the economy.
This makes the group’s work more difficult, she said, because the horses sometimes return in worse condition than when they were adopted and that leads to several thousand dollars in veterinary bills.
The group rescues abused, neglected or abandoned horses, donkeys or zebras. The animals are rehabilitated and put in appropriate homes. The group also emphasizes education.
The North Carolina operation is divided into regions. In the Charlotte area, work is carried out by the Central Piedmont Region, which serves an 11-county area, including Mecklenburg and Union counties.
The USERL in North Carolina is staffed almost entirely by volunteers. Carl serves as a coordinator.
The USERL has no farm or animal sanctuary of its own, relying instead on a network of foster farms to feed and care for the equines.
Carl, who is from Pennsylvania, became involved in USERL because she had a horse when she was growing up, which she describes as an once-in-a-lifetime horse.
She had to sell him before enrolling in graduate school and later learned the horse had been mistreated.
“He was the love of my life,” she said.
She now owns a horse named Lightfoot, who was rescued from a Craven County field.
“I see that, I can’t turn away from it,” she said, referring to a stack of photographs showing abused horses, neglected with ribs protruding.
A variety of volunteer opportunities is available with USERL in this region. The group has about 13 horses in its care, including several that arrived in mid-October. The oldest horses are in their 30s, and the youngest is around 2 years old.
Carl’s goal is finding volunteers to coordinate foster homes and adoptions, handle fundraising, staff information booths, generate publicity and conduct annual facility checks of foster farms.
Foster and adoptive homes also are needed. Donations in any amount are welcome.
“I think our ultimate goal is that we wouldn’t be needed,” she said.