While many students pass the Bergen County Horse Rescue on a regular basis, for Ramapo College senior Danielle DeBenedetto, it has become a passion.
“I had been driving by for a couple of years,” said DeBenedetto. “I’ve always loved horses and I just wanted to call and see if I could volunteer here, mucking stalls or just learning about horses in general.”
Now, almost two years later, DeBenedetto has been given a spot on the board of the Bergen County Horse Rescue, also known as BCHR, as Event Coordinator and Head of Marketing.
“I found out what it was they were trying to do and I got all my resources together. I used Ramapo’s Greek life because I’m in a business fraternity there. And basically, I just held a Greek life volunteer event and then it just launched from there,” she said.
She has also planned an event to take pictures with Santa and put up a GoFundMe page to raise money for the rescue. As the only rescue in the area, the BCHR works to save horses not only from Bergen County, but also from places as far away as Pennsylvania.
They rescue horses that have been abused or are headed for auction or slaughter and then try to find new homes for as many as possible. Although horse slaughter is illegal in the U.S., 150,000 horses are transported over the borders to Mexico and Canada each year to be slaughtered for human consumption according to the ASPCA.
“People need to learn about the need for horse rescues and the abuse that goes on in the horse community with slaughtering and horse neglect,” DeBenedetto said. “Not to say that it's more or less important than a dog rescue, but if these horses do go to slaughter, it's a brutal, brutal process that people aren’t really aware of.”
However, amidst all the political controversies, lawmakers on Capitol Hill have introduced a bill that would permanently ban horse slaughter and the exportation of horses for that purpose, the ASPCA reported in early January.
Currently BCHR is at full capacity with 20 horses as well as one cat.
“My favorite horse is definitely Barron,” said DeBenedetto, referring to a horse that came to the rescue from down the street after an incident with his owner.
“Everyone pegged him as this horse that has a temperament. But I always was kind of drawn to him and he was my first actual rescue that I had here. I was curious to see if he actually did have that temperament or was it just a mistake or an accident. And it was totally an accident because I’ve spent a lot of time with him and I’ve been working with him so he definitely has my heart. He’s my favorite for sure,” she said.
The rescue is also currently at capacity for volunteers. However, there are still ways for students to help the cause. Awareness, attendance at events and fundraising are key points to furthering the message and work with BCHR.
DeBenedetto is graduating this semester and taking on a job in the insurance field. She hopes to also continue her work with the horse rescue.
“Since I'm passionate about it, I know I will make time to continue my work,” she said, looking forward to the future. “I hope to continue spreading awareness of our cause, saving more horses, gaining more sponsorships for our horses and becoming self sufficient.”