"These groups are unregulated and do not have stringent standards of care and oversight," she said. "We have increasing concerns over the stability of these 'rescue' organizations and their ability to provide adequate care to the equines they claim to adopt."
The UAN disagrees and said its Web site -- PMURescue.org -- has found good homes for 1,900 PMU horses. The organization said Wyeth has underestimated the number of horses that need homes, especially since the most recent women's health findings.
Modeled on the popular site Petfinder.com, the site allows rescue organizations to register horses available for adoption. The animals are sorted by gender, breed and location.
In 2005, Thorne Delaney, an animal lover from Summit, N.J., adopted Ulysses Blue -- a beautiful black and white foal sired on a ranch in Manitoba from a quarter-horse mare and draft father. The little horse died of an unexplained illness, but the experience of caring for a PMU foal was so satisfying that this year she adopted Ulysses Blue's chestnut-colored half-brother, River.
"I wasn't ready for another horse right away, but when I saw River's photo on the Web site, I wanted to save him," Delaney said. "I was so shocked when I heard about how horrible the industry was."
Delaney paid an $800 adoption fee and about $500 in cross-country shipping costs. Curious about her foal's parentage, Delaney has kept a correspondence with ranchers Gary and Janice Lowry, who had worked with United Pegasus Organization.
The Lowrys, who raised PMU horses on their Manitoba ranch before Wyeth cut their contract in 2003, were thrilled to learn River was thriving. The couple has struggled to maintain their animals but reassured Delaney that Blue's and River's mother was still alive.
"Our horses were well looked after," said Janice Lowry. Their ranch was cut back from 200 Premarin-producing mares to 45 breeding thoroughbreds. She said ranchers could no longer afford to provide oats and vaccinations for the horses that were once used to produce Premarin.
"We would certainly much rather not see these animals go to slaughter," she explained. "But we didn't have a choice after the PMU industry shut down. You get attached to the animals you keep. It's devastating when you have to put down the animals you have given names to."