BY TPH STAFF
There are those who believe that one moment can alter your life forever, and for Dorothy Brooke, that moment happened more than 80 years ago in Cairo, Egypt. In the early 1930s, Mrs. Brooke was astonished to find thousands of former WW1 British warhorses who had been abandoned and sold into working hardships on the streets of Cairo. Not only did that moment greatly impact Mrs. Brooke’s life, it would also change the lives of working equines for decades to come.
Her subsequent relentless and inspiring efforts to rescue 5,000 of those animals and end their suffering led to the creation of what is today Brooke: Action for Working Horses and Donkeys (Brooke) – the world’s largest international equine welfare charity.
Working equines are the engines that power developing countries. They are crucial to literally hundreds of millions of the world’s poorest people who depend on these animals to help them eke out a meagre livelihood. The animals carry out backbreaking household chores, plow fields, take goods to market, haul food and water, transport construction materials, and earn extra money so families can pay school fees for their children and purchase food, clothing, and medicine.
However, as a result of owners’ extreme poverty, lack of education, few resources, and no access to veterinary assistance, these animals usually live sad, painful, and short lives – which is not only tragic for the animals, but causes devastating economic hardships for their families who are often already on the cusp of financial ruin.
- Overloaded, dehydrated, and exhausted, many working equines collapse – and often die – once they reach markets with their heavy burdens. Without access to water once they arrive, their futures are uncertain, at best, so Brooke constructs water troughs at many high-traffic markets in developing countries.
- A Brooke veterinarian in Pakistan examines a donkey at one of Brooke’s many wayside stations, where owners can pull their working animals off of the street and directly into a clinic for free veterinary care.
- Horses, donkeys, and mules like this one routinely haul 25-40 tons of bricks each day across thousands of kilns in India, Egypt, Pakistan, and Nepal. Brooke veterinarians work in hundreds of these kilns to improve the welfare of the animals who suffer there.
- Owners are often paid by the loads they deliver, so the temptation for poor owners to overload and overwork their animals is enormous.
That’s were Brooke comes in. They offer advice and support to local communities in order to educate owners and service providers (such as farriers, healers, saddle makers, feed dealers, etc) on the proper care and keeping of equines. The education programs have improved the welfare of animals who would otherwise have lived in misery.
Brooke’s equine welfare programs are grounded in sustainability and education. They provide free veterinary care for these hard-working animals and sustainable programs that create a lasting infrastructure for ongoing improvement of animal welfare in communities that are plagued by poverty and poor working conditions.
One of the most exciting events in Brooke’s 80-year history was the creation of Brooke USA seven years ago. Brooke USA is the American fundraising arm of Brooke, and exists solely to raise money to support Brooke’s overseas programs. Since officially opening their American headquarters at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington only four years ago, Brooke USA has become a pivotal part of the organization’s success.
By introducing Americans to their unique work, Brooke USA is able to fund projects that permanently reverse the effects malnutrition, dehydration, overloading, exhaustion, heat stress, colic, lameness, infectious disease and injuries.
Most recently, Brooke USA launched its “Buy a Donkey a Drink” campaign, which is raising money to build five massive, permanent water troughs in Ethiopia that will benefit 13,500 working equines, giving them lifetime access to fresh water, and benefitting more than 80,000 people who depend on them. Ethiopia was selected for this particular project because it is plagued by annual drought and extreme poverty.
These 50-foot-long concrete troughs will be located in very busy market areas where thousands of animals regularly gather. In addition to horses, donkeys, and mules, an additional 60,000 other livestock animals such as camels and cattle will also have access to this lifesaving water. By making it possible for animals to drink on a daily basis, Brooke will lower the equine mortality rate in that area by 45%.
Brooke USA’s “Buy a Donkey a Drink” campaign is just one example of literally hundreds of Brooke projects currently underway in locations that include Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Egypt, Ethiopia, Senegal, Kenya, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and a pilot project recently launched in Mexico.
With help from donors and the support of a sparkling list of equestrian celebrities such as Brooke USA ambassadors Boyd Martin, Debbie McDonald, Laura Kraut, Nic Roldan, Allison Brock, Sinead Halpin, and others, last year alone, Brooke reached 1.8 million horses, donkeys, and mules. This year they expect to reach an additional 2 million animals. Add to that the international fire power of Brooke president, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, and patron HRH Princess Alia of Jordan, with global ambassadors Monty Roberts and Charlotte Dujardin, and Brooke USA is poised to affect the lives of millions more working equines in the foreseeable future.