Last week I described some of the causes veterinarians were recognizing and supporting at the American Association of Equine Practitioners' convention earlier this month. This week, in the spirit of Christmas giving, I’d like to highlight a few organizations with which I’m familiar and can recommend for giving. These organizations seek to help working equids, or to help people abroad who rely on these horses, donkeys, or mules for their livelihood.

If you’re still looking for a gift for that hard-to-buy-for, horse-loving friend or family member, here are few causes you might consider supporting. Please note that I don’t intend for this list to be comprehensive--I'm highlighting a few organizations that do good work.

  1. The Equitarian Initiative This group of veterinarians seeks to bring education, leadership, and assistance to people caring for and using working equids (horses, mules, or donkeys used primarily for family income, agriculture, and/or transportation) internationally. There are an estimated 100 million working equids in the world. Read a story we ran about the Equitarian Initiative when it was highlighted at the 2010 AAEP convention, and read a column by Dr. Jay Merriam reflecting on the mission of the group's work. 
  2. The Christian Veterinary Mission This organization was the recipient of the American Association of Equine Practitioners’ Lavin Cup (equine welfare award) in 2012 and seeks to help veterinarians serve others and live out their Christian faith through their profession. The organization seeks “to change lives and communities by improving the care of livestock and other animals.” 
  3. The Brooke is an international animal welfare organization that’s dedicated to improving the lives of working horses, donkeys, and mules in impoverished areas of the world. The group provides treatments, training, and animal health programs in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. I blogged about their work educating a young female Kenyan farrier a few months back, in case you missed it.
  4. SPANA, which stands for the Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad, is focused on working donkey welfare across the world, treating “hundreds of thousands of donkeys, horses, mules, camels and livestock every year” across Africa and the Middle East. We did a video interview with SPANA a few years ago at AAEP, when the organization won the Lavin Award (and was the first winning organization outside the United States).

The following organizations missions' are not animal health- or veterinarian-specific, but I am familiar with their beneficial trickle-down effects in helping people:

  1. World Vision provides the opportunity to sponsor the purchase of a donkey for a needy family. I have sponsored children in El Salvador through World Vision since 2000 and, while I've never ponied up for a donkey purchase, I have given gifts to family members of goats and chickens. It's a fun gift and helps others.
  2. Food For the Hungry offers an opportunity to educate veterinary assistants. Again, healthy animals (and among these, the crucial hard-working donkeys), mean healthy people, and vice versa. It’s also an income-providing venture for families
  3. Finally, Compassion International has a gift program through which you equip a family with livestock. I have personal involvement with this organization; since 2009 I have sponsored a girl in Mombasa, Kenya, and I visited her in 2011. Compassion works in many of these developing countries that rely on their working equids to live. Over the Kenyan roads I’ve traveled, I've seen thousands of donkeys tethered beside the road that reminded me of this. And if buying some goats, cattle, or a donkey isn’t your thing, child sponsorship is also an option http://www.compassion.com/sponsor_a_child/default.htm.

May this Christmas be a special one for you and your family, and may you be surrounded by wonderful horses and ponies, big and small, that remind you of the unconditional love this holiday represents.

Are you supporting an equine-related cause this Christmas? If so, what is it?