Redmond’s own Save a Forgotten Equine (SAFE) horse rescue received verification from the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries on Oct. 9, making it one of only 162 verified shelters worldwide.
SAFE is a Redmond-based organization that takes in and rehabilitates horses that are rescued by law enforcement from abuse or improper care, or whose owners had to give them up. SAFE houses and treats the horses and restores them to health before training them and finding new homes for the animals, said executive director Bonnie Hammond.
“Horses are extremely expensive to care for and they can end up in situations where they’re not getting the amount of care and feeding that they need,” she said. “We are trying to prevent that kind of suffering and neglect where we can.”
Being verified by the international federation potentially opens SAFE up for additional grant funding and donations that keep the organization on its feet. It also allows them to take part in surveys by the federation. Getting certification was a long process for SAFE, Hammond said.
“It’s a pretty big honor,” she said. “We have been looked at, examined and held up to a very high set of standards as to how to care for animals, how to keep a facility safe, and how to run a good, sustainable organization.”
Hammond submitted a lengthy application in which they were questioned about every aspect of their rescue — including how they house and feed horses, veterinary care and how their volunteers care for the horses. SAFE’s emergency plans were also audited for how the organization would respond to a number of situations ranging from fire evacuation plans to volcano eruptions. Verification also included an onsite inspection.
One improvement the rescue made was to begin storing its hay separately from the horses. Hay is a common cause of fires and burns quickly, Hammond said. Otherwise, many of the practices suggested in the application were ones the rescue had already adopted.
“It really reinforced the idea that we’ve been doing things right for a long time, really establishing good practices and sticking to them, and to have that recognized at a global level is pretty amazing,” Hammond said.
Valerie Taylor, the federation’s equine and farm program director, said SAFE passed the verification process easily, with some improvements they agreed to make, like building a new hay storage facility. Taylor inspected the Redmond rescue herself and praised the facility and staff. During the inspection, Taylor looked at every horse to see if they were in good condition, if they had appropriate amounts of food, the state of the facility and how the staff cared for the horses.
“This is just a wonderful group to work with,” Taylor said.
Additionally, the SAFE’s finances were examined to ensure it was sustainable and to verify donations were being used properly. This part of the inspection is especially useful today, as Taylor said anyone can start a website and claim they’re an animal shelter or rescue. Verification from the federation lets potential supporters know the rescue is legitimate.
Other accredited rescues in Washington state include Equine Aid in Monroe, Horse Harbor Foundation in Poulsbo, Wolf Haven International in Tenino and the Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest in Cle Elum. Verification is renewed every three years and the shelters are checked for compliance with planned improvements.
Taylor said her organization started granting accreditation in 2007 after finding that large animals, farm animals and wildlife shelters did not have an accreditation system like shelters for smaller animals have, which are usually overseen by state or federal organizations.
“We want to help these groups improve. We want them to gain credibility. We want them to increase their capacity for care,” Taylor said. “We want them to be sustainable so that they’re around for years and years to take care of these wonderful animals.”
SAFE was started in 2005 as a group of people who pooled their money together to rescue a horse off a feed lot, an effort that culminated in starting a nonprofit organization that rescues horses that have been abused, neglected or starved. It also takes in horses whose previous owners could no longer take care of them. At any given time, SAFE has capacity for around 30 horses.