About Adopting

Adopting a horse or livestock animal from Safe Harbor is an exciting, fun, and rewarding experience!  It is one of the greatest opportunities you can take in your life to find long term happiness.  The adoption process is incredibly simple.  It starts with a few minutes of filling out our adoption application, which is free, online, and does not obligate you to anything.

Once you submit your application, our volunteers get started with their process to put you on the road to bringing your new friend home.    We do a site visit and reference check for every adoption to assure that the animals in our care have a great life ahead of them. The site visit is an excellent time to ask any questions you have about Safe Harbor. We want happy matches for our adopters and rescues, so every adoption is a trial adoption. We are here for you, and your adopted pet for life, and will always take back an animal if the adoption is not a good fit.


Here’s some frequently asked questions that may be helpful to you:

Q. Who is the horse in the primary photo on this page?

A. Finnick, adopted from Safe Harbor with his rider Kensington!  Finnick is an off track Thoroughbred who came through our After the Track Program.  He competes in Eventing with Kensington year round.

Q. What is your adoption process?

A. The first step happens right on this website.  You fill out the adoption application.  Within 48 hours we will contact you to acknowledge your application and talk to you about our horses.  We will then check your references.  If you are a first time horse owner, we’ll do a site visit where we can talk to you about adoption in person, and then you can meet your potential new horse! We do have mandatory training for first time horse owners to help keep both horse and rider safe.  This training is provided by the rescue at no cost to adopters prior to adoption.  Post adoption we will provide you with a list of recommended trainers.  Horse ownership is a lifelong learning process, and we believe fully in training of both horses and horse owners.  Aside from the training which only applies to adopters new to horses,  the whole process from application to adoption typically takes about 1 week.

Q. You have a horse I want, but I’m not ready to decide yet, or not ready to bring the horse home.  Can you hold him/her for me until I am ready, or make my decision?

A. We are a foster farm based rescue, and our ability to help animals is limited by the space we have available.  For that reason we CANNOT hold an animal.  If we have multiple approved applications for the same animal we will try to set up visits in the order in which the applications have come in, but simply getting the application in first does not guarantee adoption.  The final decision is ultimately in the hands of the Safe Harbor Adoption Committee, and postponing or cancelling a scheduled meeting may result in essentially losing your place in line to meet a horse or livestock animal that has multiple interested adopters.

Q. I met the horses I am interested in, now what?

A. If there is a horse you really like that you met, then it is time to think long and hard to make a decision.  Your adoption coordinator will send you a copy of the adoption contract, and you have 24 hours to complete the contract if you want to adopt the horse you met.  If we are in a multiple application situation after 24 hours with no contract signed we will reserve the right, at the adoption committee’s sole discretion to show the horse to the next approved adopter in line, and allow them to move to the top of the adoption list.  Once you have signed the adoption contract you will have 7 days to make transportation arrangements and pay the adoption fee for your adopted horse.  We will provide complimentary boarding to you as an adopter for this week. If you need longer than 7 days before you can bring your horse home we can continue to board for you, but we will add a $20 a day boarding fee starting at day 8 through day 21 which is due in full along with the adoption fee when you bring your horse home.  If your horse remains in foster more than 21 days past the signing of the adoption contract, unless there is a written agreement to the contrary, the adoption contract will be void, and the horse will become adoptable again. 

Q. What do I agree to when I sign the adoption contract?

A. The best way to answer that is to read the contract, which can be found here: Equine Adoption Contract

Q. The contract is a “Lifelong” contract.  That’s a big commitment.  What if my horse outlives me, or my job changes or something else changes?

A. It IS a big commitment, and we hope all of our adopters take it very seriously when they consider adopting.  Horses can live 35 to 40 years or more!  That said, we understand life IS unpredictable.  Lifelong does not mean you and your horse have to uproot to New York City and live in a condo together.  What it does mean is that we are a part of your adoption for the life of the horse.  Think of it as insurance.  If something happens to you or your relationship with your horse, we are always here for you.  If you can’t keep your horse, he or she can always come back to us.  If you decide you have found a better home for your horse, just let us know.  We’ll make sure the home meets the Safe Harbor standards of care, and your buyer can pay you your purchase price, but will sign OUR adoption contract.  The Lifelong Contract truly means once a Safe Harbor horse always a Safe Harbor horse, and you can always come home again.  We’re here for you and your horse when you need us.

Q. I specifically need a child ready horse because my son/daughter/grandchild needs to learn to ride.

A. Please read our blog post on this subject.  It has far more details that we can put in this FAQ.

Q. How do animals end up at Safe Harbor?

A. Safe Harbor assists law enforcement and animal control agencies with animal seizures.  We also accept equines from owners who are no longer able to care for them, or from boarding facilities who have horses abandoned through contractual default.

Q. What is the adoption fee for a horse or other equine through Safe Harbor?

A. We have a tiered adoption fee structure ranging from $100 to $5,000.  Most of our adoptable horses have an adoption fee of $300.


Q. Are you for or against horse slaughter?

A. We are adamantly opposed to horse slaughter, and encourage our membership to contact their legislature to voice their opinion against horse slaughter.  

Q. What vetting does a rescue equine receive?

A. All horses in rescue have a current coggins, rabies vaccine and 5 way vaccine.  Horses have their hooves trimmed every 8 weeks.  Our horses are dewormed using a chemical deworming cycle.   We also provide all necessary medical care for any conditions or injuries that horses may have that come into our care. All male horses and livestock animals are castrated.  We provide species appropriate vaccinations.  Occasionally we have barn cats in rescue and they are spayed/neutered, vaccinated, FIV tested and dewormed.

Cat3Q. How does the Home Again Microchip work?

A. When available, Safe Harbor Equine and Livestock Sanctuary injects a microchip into a species appropriate place for each foster.  For a horse, that is in the ligament directly below the mane, halfway between the poll and withers on the left side.  The microchip is the size of a grain of rice, but has a unique ID that goes into all of the national pet databases; meaning it can be read by any microchip reader.  At the time of adoption the chip becomes registered to the adopter with Safe Harbor registered as a secondary emergency contact.  Should your adopted animal ever become lost animal control authorities SHOULD scan for a chip, which can help you to be reunited with you.  In the event of theft, the Microchip can prove ownership.  Further, auction houses are required to check for a chip, and contact the owner of record prior to sale of an animal.  The microchip value is $50, and is provided at no charge to our adopters.  Registration of the microchip is a one time, $15 fee. for life  This is a savings for our adopters, as typical Home Again registration is $19.95 per year.

Q. If I adopt a registered horse from Safe Harbor can I show or breed that horse?

A. We will do what we can to assist in the transfer of all registrations, and have successfully assisted in the transfer of registration.  Such transfers are for showing purposes ONLY.  Our contract has a strict no breeding clause in it.  All male equines are gelded prior to adoption.

Q. What do you feed the horses in rescue?

A. We strictly follow AAEP standards for equine rehabilitation.  We make our feed choices based on the need, age, performance level, and other factors that affect the body condition of the horse.  When available near our foster farms, we exclusively feed Tribute Feeds.  Tribute is a fixed formula feed and is an equine specific company (unlike Purina and most others).  Tribute has product lines that suit all life stages, and are low in non structural carbohydrates which is an essential characteristic of feed for Equine Health.  We NEVER feed high NSC feeds such as sweet feed or Strategy, as this increases the risk of laminitis, colic and founder and is not a healthy choice for rehabilitating or maintaining weight on a horse.

Q. If I adopt an animal can it be delivered?

A. Maybe.  We do have transport volunteers that will deliver horses to adopters.  They charge a transport fee of $50 or $0.50/mile round trip, whichever is greater.  This fee is paid to the transporter, not to rescue.  It is to compensate them for gas and wear and tear on their vehicles.

Q. Can you recommend an equine vet?

A. Sure.  Just click here to see our referrals!

Q. What do you look for in a site visit?

A. Most importantly we want to make sure the findings match your application.  We are looking at acreage, number of animals and safety.  Safe Harbor does not approve homes with full barbed wire fencing as this is dangerous to animals.  We expect pastures to be free from debris and hazards, have maintained grass (i.e. bush hogged and not 3 feet high or terribly overgrazed in the winter).  We look for routine maintenance on existing horses such as hoof care, skin and coat condition, weight, etc.  Fencing must be a minimum of 48″ high and of field fencing, board, vinyl or charged electric composition to be secure for horses.

Q. I applied and did not get a response.  What happened?

A. We try to respond to all applications, but during high volume periods may not be able to.  We are all volunteers, and do rescue because we love the horses.  If we fall behind we apologize.  There are certain things that may result in an automatic decline, and periodically this happens and an application is not responded to.  

Some of these things are:

1) The adopter is involved with an ongoing criminal case.  This involvement may be as a defendant or an informant.  While this may seem like we are penalizing an informant for doing a good deed, it is not the case at all! For the safety of our animals we cannot adopt to informants in a case, as we have found that they have a higher likelihood of being victimized through retaliation by defendants.

2) The adopter does not have adequate land.  We require a minimum of 5 acres for adoption. Exceptions are made from time to time, but anyone who lives on or plans to pasture their animal on under 2 acres of total land will automatically be declined.

3) The adopter is under the age of 18.

4) The adopter lives in the proximity of where the specific animal they are interested in was seized from in a case of gross criminal neglect.  Again, we want to make sure the horse is never stolen, retaliated against or otherwise put in harms way.  

5) The adopter previously surrendered an animal to Safe Harbor due to being unable to financially provide for the animal or safely care for the animal.

In most cases, we will respond and explain the reason for the decline, but have this list printed here as a reference.  If your application does not fall under one of these reasons, and you have not received a response in 72 hours, please email contact@safeharborsanctuary.org to verify that your application was received!

Q. I live out of state, can you adopt to me?

A.  The area in the map below is what we consider our coverage area to be, and is the area where we have volunteer support to do site visits.  Geographically, this is about a 650 mile circle outside of Nashville, TN.  A map of our coverage area is below.  If you live INSIDE the area encircled about with the line then you are in our coverage area.   If you live in an area outside of the grey line you may still apply to adopt, but we may not be able to process your application.  We review out of area applications on a case by case basis.  Our ability to process an out of area applications is dependent on two primary factors:

1) Our ability to conduct a site visit and find a qualified volunteer to do the site visit

2) The adopter’s willingness to come to the Safe Harbor foster farm to meet the horse they are interested in, and arrange transport to bring their adopted animal home if it is the right fit.  Safe Harbor absolutely will not ever approve an out of area adoption if the adopter will not come to meet the horse/donkey.  The emotional connection between adopter and adoptee is of critical importance.

 Jan 2015 Coverage Map

Q. Can you summarize your adoption policies and requirements?

A. Yes!

  • All prospective adopters MUST be 18 years of age or older and must be the individual who will be the responsible legal care-taker for the horse.
  • All prospective adopters MUST fully complete an adoption application online to be considered for adoption.
  • If the prospective adopter has current animals or has had animals in the past two years a positive vet reference is required.
  • If the prospective adopter has hooved animals a positive farrier reference is required.
  • If the prospective adopter does not have hooved animals a site visit by a rescue volunteer is required.
  • All properties for equine adoption must be a minimum of 5 acres and must be safely fenced. Fencing may not be barbed wire.
  • For horse adoption we require a minimum of 2 acres per horse in available pasture.
  • If approved the adopter must meet the horse or animal in person prior to adoption to assure a good emotional connection is present.
  • The adopter must read, agree to and sign the adoption contract.
  • The adoption fee must be paid in cash or electronically prior to taking the horse home.
  • The adopter must arrange for transport of their adopted horse home.
  • Safe Harbor does not adopt mares to homes who own stallions.
  • Safe Harbor does not adopt to homes with any record of alleged or convicted animal or child neglect.
  • Safe Harbor retains the right to reclaim any adopted animal at any time if standards of care are not maintained.