Debi Metcalfe founded Stolen Horse International (quickly nicknamed the “Net Posse,” http://NetPosse.comhttp://netposse.com/) as a nationwide partnership of animal enthusiasts who could help spot and recover stolen horses. Now, with 11 years of experience helping horse owners track down their beloved mounts, the Net Posse has the wisdom and resources to help prevent thefts. The organization will always help track down missing horses, but is now focused on teaching horse owners how to deter theft and ID their animals with microchips so that the four-legged family members can be easily tracked. Find out how to permanently identify your horse and tack and protect your property at http://netposse.com/article.asp?id=31.
“NetPosse.com is a place for horse owners to learn to be proactive--not just reactive,” Metcalfe said. “If someone contacts the posse after their horse has been stolen, there’s only a certain amount we can do. But if the horse has an ID and is registered, we have tracking data and a way to help locate and claim the horse.”
Prevention and Microchip Products
The Netposse.com website offers the first all-equine ID microchip registry deemed the ‘NetPosse Identification Program’ (NIP). First get your horse microchip here: https://www.netposse.com/store.asp?cat=Microchips then register the chip. For a one-time $20 registration (at https://www.netposse.com/product.asp?productid=486&cat=Victim+Services), NIP members register their horses and tack—and add identifying photos for easy access when needed. NIP members can register all horses and tack in one database and have access to update records at any time. Additionally, NIP members receive free NetPosse.com listing reports if a horse or tack are ever missing. Look for packages that include a microchip and registration for the chip, such as this package for one horse’s microchip and NIP registration at https://www.netposse.com/product.asp?productid=822&cat=Microchips.
Ready to shop? Also check for other preparation resources such as theft-deterrent signage. Signs let prospective thieves know that that premises are monitored. Get signs at https://www.netposse.com/store.asp?cat=Security+Signs.
Check out the site’s disaster preparedness articles and remember that during disasters, missing animals can be listed for free.
Join the “Posse”
Once your horses are chipped and registered, make sure you’re signed up to get the most recent news and alerts about all missing horses at http://netposse.com/article.asp?id=30. As part of the posse, you’ll get updates about stolen animals or goods that may pass through your area. The link also allows you to donate to help the 501(c)(3) cause. Donate now at https://www.netposse.com/donate.asp.
How it All Started
When Metcalfe's horse, “Idaho,” was stolen in 1997, she and her husband worked relentlessly to find her—and also documented their procedures so they could help others find stolen horses and learn to prevent future horse thefts.
“I quickly became an expert,” Metcalfe said of the year Idaho was missing. “We decided to start the NetPosse.com site to help other people and to pay it forward for all the people who helped us and for all the victims who still needed help. From there it just got bigger and bigger.”
Eleven years later, the volunteer-run organization still helps horse owners find stolen and missing horses as its primary focus, but it has expanded to include tracking down stolen tack, farm equipment and even cows, dogs and other farm animals.
If a horse is stolen or missing, the owner can submit a detailed report for free or for a small fee on NetPosse.com. Once the report is complete, Metcalfe sends out an alert to NetPosse.com's extensive network via email to news media contacts and lists the report on extensive social media resources. Every person on the network has the potential to help find a horse. Stolen horses can be moved quickly, so it's important to have a wide network of people looking for them.
“It's like finding a needle in the haystack when the haystack keeps moving,” said Metcalfe. Her group has helped find a horse from California in Connecticut, and one horse from Connecticut was found in Texas. “Our motto is 'never underestimate the power of one.' Our alerts go out to ‘ones’ all over the world who share it with their friends.”
One of Metcalfe's favorite “found stories” is about a stolen horse named Opie. Metcalfe's team worked with the victim for a number of years, but couldn't find the horse. Ten years later, a rider shopping for a horse to buy tried out a horse she'd found on Craigslist. She liked him, but the backstory sounded a little fishy. The rider Googled the horse and the information she knew and identified the horse as stolen horse, Opie, on NetPosse.com.
“We have thousands of open cases, and we work on 5-20 cases a week,” said Metcalfe. “Our cases take a long time to handle. We're the consultants, and we understand where the victims are coming from because we've been there. All of our core volunteers were once victims.”
NetPosse.com also helps victims with missing horses that either ran away or disappear after civil disputes. Did the horse get out? Did somebody let it out? Did somebody steal it? Civil thefts involve violations of contract—disputes over ownership after lending or leasing a horse, for instance. The contract may say the person who has the horse must give you (the owner) the chance to take the horse back when they're finished, but the horse is sold instead.
Metcalfe said her horse Idaho is still the cornerstone of the organization. “She was our first miracle,” she said. “Because of her, many more miracles continue to happen.”
The NetPosse is a volunteer-run organization started after the founder’s horse was stolen and she saw the need for help. If you’d like to sign up for email alerts and give to the organization to keep helping the posse find other horses 501(c)(3), go to NetPosse.com. Like the group on Facebook at www.fb.com/StolenHorseInternationalNetPosse to help share alerts.