An Answer to the Humane Society of the US false allegations against the Chincoteague Fire Dept by Cindy Wolfe

A recent post by my pony friend Cindy Wolfe pretty much says it all!

You all know how I feel about protecting animals (LOL If you have any doubt, then you truly don’t know me)! I have, throughout my life, supported and respected the Humane Society of The United States … but Kitty Block (the Humane Society CEO) lost me with her recent blog – a gross (and self-serving) misrepresentation of the Chincoteague pony swim written in response to the death of Butterfly Kisses. I didn’t share her blog to my page, because I won’t knowingly post B.S. on my page, but you are welcome to Google it. When you read the article, you likely won’t see my comment on their page, as I fully expect to be censored, but here it is …..

Kitty, You are quick to pass judgement without having done your homework. The loss of Butterfly Kisses during the recent pony penning week (which I attended) was truly was a “freak accident” as the fire company post said. I know of a similar accident that happened to a lovely quarter-horse mare in a friend’s 50 acre pasture – she was running, slipped, slid into (and was impaled by) a fence. Will you now call for the cessation of keeping all domesticated horses because of the loss of my friend’s mare? Or will you call for keeping all domesticated horses indoors all the time, and bubble wrapped, to reduce the possibility of injury? The island community is deeply mourning the loss of this beloved pony, who was promptly and HUMANELY euthanized to prevent her from suffering. Your harsh knee-jerk judgement, twisting of facts, and outright lies (or negligent reporting of unconfirmed “events”) is a prime example of cruelty to fellow humans who are already devastated by this accident. Shame on you.

I (and other hikers) have noted ponies in the wild on Virginia end of Assateague with naturally occurring injuries, or that were in some kind of trouble (stuck in the mud, etc), and I personally have repeatedly seen the fire company respond promptly to attend to and/or rescue these ponies when they are in need. Also there is a regular regiment of pony enthusiasts who hike EVERY DAY to check on them, who communicate regularly with other enthusiasts and with the fire company, and who keep detailed records in addition to the records maintained by the fire company’s veterinarian (who attends to each pony at least 3 times a year for routine examinations and treatments, and as needed for illness or injury).

And as for the pony swim itself, I challenge you to elaborate on the “drownings” you reported to have occurred as a result of the annual swim. When did these pony-swim related “drownings” occur – dates and evidence please? I don’t expect a response from you on this point because there have not been any event related equine drownings (As safety measures, the very young, old, or infirm ponies don’t make “the swim” and are trailered to the carnival grounds, and the Saltwater Cowboys travel across the channel in boats on both sides of the swimming ponies). Over the decades, some wild ponies (on both the Maryland and Virginia parts of Assateague) have drowned while in the wild during violent storms, but not as a result of a pony swim event. VOLUNTARY swimming is pleasant part of their daily lives, and rare drownings during storms is part of the harsh realties that all barrier island inhabitants are subject to (though when large storms approach, the fire company opens the gates to all of the protective compounds, and the wise older ponies lead the others to high ground). The ponies often take to the water (foals included) to cool off, escape the bugs, to swim to other areas of Assateague, and they have even been known to swim across to Chincoteague on their own (see Youtube video “WILD Chincoteague ponies invade campground”). The foals routinely play in the water, and have even been observed playing with their own reflections on the water’s surface.

The one point you have made that is partially valid relates to some of the practices during the 1960s (ponies being transported in all manners of vehicles, etc). However, for you to report things that occurred over 50 years ago as though they are still occurring is irresponsible journalism at best, and is (at worst) hyping circumstances that no longer exist in order to get more support (donations) for your organization (of which I am sure you are a PAID staff member). Come to think of it, as I see it, you aren’t interested so much in protecting ponies as you are in providing your own job-security by playing on the emotions of animal lovers through gross misrepresentation of the pony swim.

Here’s how it’s done today … the fire company reserves the right to refuse to sell a pony to any individual regardless of whether or not they win the bid, and they require veterinary approval (and proper equipment) for transporting the ponies away from the auction. Not surprisingly, many of the foals that go to auction are purchased by people who are known personally in the local (and extended social media) community. Additionally, the Chincoteague pony enthusiasts have an extensive and well-connected social network that tracks the majority of the purchased ponies throughout their lives (believe me … these enthusiasts can identify the foals by name, tell you who the sire and dam are, and many times will tell you their birthdays and stories about their early days in the wild on Assateague). Many of the people who purchase these ponies proudly “register” them in Facebook “Class of (date)” groups, and share how they are doing throughout their lives. And, the pony enthusiast community steps in to support any pony that finds himself/herself in need of rescue (see Chincoteague Pony Rescue in Ridgely, Maryland). I would argue that these Chincoteague ponies have a better chance of being monitored throughout their lives, and are less at risk for mistreatment, than horses who are routinely purchased from breeding farms and private individuals and get passed around throughout their lives with no one watching over them.

I have throughout my life supported the Humane Society, but you missed the mark on this one, and have caused damage to the integrity of your once-trusted and well-respected organization. Please, invest your resources in protecting the wild mustangs out west, who are subject to real cruelty and mistreatment by our government, and don’t chime in on the Chincoteague ponies again until you know what you are talking about.

Extra biscuits and scritches to the furry loves…

Play nice ya’ll…