It seems likely from reviews online that this is a legitimate nonprofit, but from their fundraising tactics (and their responses to criticism), I actually thought it was a scam. I received an unsolicited mailing from this organization--I'm guessing they buy contact info from other animal rescue organizations--and on the outside of the envelope was a full color photo of a horse with half its face hacked off. It was incredibly graphic and, in my opinion, incredibly exploitative.
So here's the thing: I've worked as an animal rights activist for years and have seen equally horrifying images, both in pictures and in person. So I'm not a delicate flower who hides away at the reality of animal abuse. That said, I know from experience that this tactic repels more people than it attracts. To send unsolicited information with such images on the outside, not the inside, of the envelope is aggressive and, in a sense, violent. I kept thinking after receiving this letter what it would have been like if I'd gotten it six months ago, while I was spending my days in the hospice facility watching my father die, or how awful it would have been if it had come to a friend of mine (also an activist) whose five-year-old daughter is currently going through chemotherapy. There are many important issues that need attention, but I (and all others) should have a choice about what kind of images I am subjected to when I open my mailbox.
Most upsetting to me is that the owner of this organization responded to my email about the issue with an incredibly angry and nasty response, accusing me of being too sensitive and not recognizing how important this issue is. Based on this particular site and the reviews here by volunteers, it does seem like the organization does good work. It's not for me to say how they proceed with their fundraising and community outreach. But there are countless other organizations doing similar work to which I feel much more confident giving my time and money.
We have adopted 3 beautiful horses from GG (a Belgian, a Drum, and a Haflinger). From the moment we arrived to look at our first horse from them we knew we would not be disappointed. They know each horse on such a deep level, their likes/dislikes, temperament, needed experience level, etc. that you can be assured that they will do what they can to find you the very best horse for you. They matched my husband up with a beautiful Belgian named Cognac, who was injured, and let me tell you they went above and beyond to get her fixed up (she's as good as new). Cognac is my husbands "heart" horse, they couldn't have done a better job (even though she wasn't the horse we had picked on the website). The second horse we adopted was Lass. A Drum who cannot be ridden and has some health issues. They made she she went to a home that would take care of her needs for the rest of her life. And the last one we adopted just recently is a little Halfie named Stars. They showed us multiple horses and everyone agreed that Starts was just perfect for our son. And boy were they right! Those two love each other to pieces! This rescue takes their time with each horse and adopter to make sure they are the right fit. I know many rescues that don't do this which leads to injuries and usually a horse or other animal being given up again. I have never seen a rescue with so much compassion for their horses and staff and volunteers with so much passion for what they do!
Today I received a mail solicitation for Gentle Giants, a charity to which I've never donated; therefore, the organization could only have obtained my mailing address by purchasing/exchanging it from another animal welfare group. My bet it is one of the national level groups who sold it, but that isn't my main objection. Gentle Giants' envelope contained a graphic image on the front featuring the infamous back-stabbing method of horse slaughter. While I find the abuse of horses & all animals disgusting, this was an unnecessary, unabashed shock fundraising attempt that's in poor taste. Those of us who care for animals don't need those images shoved in our faces for effect. Since Gentle Giants (or its 3rd party fundraiser) knows my donor history, it already knows I would donate without this tactic. With no trigger warning for those of us who've witnessed animal abuse, the image is in full view of children and anyone else who glimpses the envelope in our mailroom or my living room. And please- no insulting lectures about how the images are necessary to "educate," as they can still be included on a mailing's interior with envelope phrasing that can encourage a consensual viewing. Needless to say, it went in the trash. I looked up Gentle Giants on Charity Navigator & other watchdog groups, but there's not enough info or history of IRS filings for any accurate rating. I'm sure there are some kind hearted folks affiliated with this organization, but their fundraising tactics are dirty pool.
Today I received two donation-seeking letters, both from horse rescue groups. The return envelope for both had almost an identical address, a post office box in Hagerstown, Md. Clearly this organization is using a professional, for-profit, fund raising company to send out begging letters. My name was sold to this company by another group to which I donated. When I find out which organization sold me out, they won't get another penny and will get a scathing review. It will be easy enough to identify them, as there is an error in the spelling of my name.
We adopted a wonderful horse from Gentle Giants. Christine was excellent to help match us with the horse that would best fit our family. The barns were really clean and the volunteers were knowledgeable and very gentle with the horses. I was really impressed with the farm. The fields were well maintained and the horses were very well taken care of.
I volunteered here a while back and was originally impressed by the way things looked. Horses seemes happy and healthy, but then I would notice little things here and there that added up. Many of the Clydesdales on the farm have a disease on their ankles called scratches and it is never properly treated for lack of funds. Many horses have tendon, back or other supposed soft tissue injuries that were "palpated" but never ultra sounded by a vet for lack of funds. The owner also favors a specific breed of draft horse and seeks that particular breed more than any other when going to the auction to rescue some horses. There has been a problem with some of the horses over time being morbidly overweight, which is just as unhealthy as a starving horse. They are taught to prefer the horses on the fatter side, but there is a difference between muscular and obese. They also don't have enough people to work with the horses to bring majority of them past the level of competent trail horses.
However, the volunteers are all very kind and love being there. The horses are naturally slower moving and safer to be around. It's a good place to get away from the city ho-hum. Just have caution crom the flirtatious barn manager. He won't think of anything short of flirting with your teenage daughter.
It should be countered that this review is offered by a previous volunteer who was asked to please terminate her voluntarism with the organization. All horses at Gentle Giants receive unlimited medical care, the condition the write speaks of is fungal in nature and notoriously tenacious to treat to full resolution. Perhaps expectations were not based in reality. Additionally, our horses weights are monitored by our Veterinarian who is out a minimum of once weekly. Any concern for obesity or thinness would be promptly addressed.
Ollie320, does it really make a difference what caused the horse's eye injury as far as supporting the efforts of this organization? This horse was abandoned, or put for adoption, or for whatever reason ended up in in the hands of charitable people when it well needed it. For me this is enough. I will send them a contribution.
It is unfortunate that ollie320 focused on the graphic photo of the horse with the eye injury rather than researching whether Gentle Giants is a reputable rescue. It is a fact that the “captive bolt” can result in shredding eye sockets and the skull. The letter I received does not say that the eye condition of the horse pictured was a result of “captive bolt.” Even though it wasn’t, the picture implies the animal is in extreme pain due to his condition that came on naturally. It helps one imagine the same pain, but due to infliction of torture rather than nature. In any event, I cannot understand how anyone would refuse to support this cause based upon a photo. I make my decision to donate to animal rights charities based upon the written content of their request --- the facts they share with me about the issues. The letter I received from Gentle Giants was very compelling and informative. After reading it carefully, to understand their message, for extra measure I contacted the Humane Society of the U.S. which verified this is a very reputable rescue, that does things right and works hard to help and protect the animals. Therefore, I gladly sent a donation, and contacted my Senators, Representative, the Senate Majority Leader, the Speaker of the House, and the President urging them to oppose the Slaughter.
I just received a donation request from Gentle Giants Draft Horse rescue. In their brochure is a picture of a horse with it's left eye horribly mangled and dangling. Very, very upsetting!! Decided to look into who would do this type of thing to a beautiful animal only to discover the truth about this here. This horse has cancer and the eye is a result of the disease NOT from Canada's 'captive bolt' as GGDHR leads you to believe. The thing is I would have donated without the graphics but now, knowing they mis-lead me intentionlly. I will donate to more truthful charities. Unforgivable!
Based on my initial review, I received a message from the director of this rescue. They claim that they file their tax returns in a timely manner, but as of 9/11/2012, there is still no record of a 2011 Form 990 per Guidestar!!! Is that being timely????? I think not!
This rescue cries for money, but spends over $700,000 on property!!!! We want to see the 2011 Form 990 to see more of the true story behind this overzealous rescue!
Yes, after saving for 5 years, Gentle Giants was very excited to finally able to purchase it's own farm in the rescue's name. Gentle Giants purchased a 51 acre farm that was a turn-key equine operation, and the monthly cost is approximately a $3,000/month savings from our leased location. Additionally, we are no longer slave to a landlord who can raise rent and change terms, or end a lease with little notice. With 60 horses in residence, it would be difficult to relocate with short notice. All of Gentle Giants financial information is posted on www.Guidestar.org in a very timely manner for the public to see. Our annual independent audit is also available, and our monthly Board of Directors meetings are open to the public if you wish to attend or have any specific questions. If you are not local, I am happy to answer any questions you may have about our funding and how it's used. You can email me at info@gentlegiantsdrafthorserescue, or even call me at 443-285-3835. Thank you! Christine Hajek, President
Review from Guidestar