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*You will find 2 letters of recommendation at the bottom of the page. One from the Florida Department of Agriculture and one from Dr. Issel; a long time EIA researcher at the University of Kentucky. We invite you to read them both to gain additional understanding of the value of what we do.

About  F.R.I.E.N.D.S.




Equine Infectious Anemia is a blood-borne condition capable of affecting all members of the Family Equidae including donkeys, zebras, and horses. In the early 1970's the Department of Agriculture ruled that any horse testing positive for Equine Infectious Anemia must be either euthanized, slaughtered or quarantined a minimum of 600 feet away from any negative horse. Due to the fact that most people do not have the capability to provide the requirements of quarantine, many horses would be needlessly euthanized if not for our rescue. Dr. Charles Issel, D.V.M. PH.D., and Professor of Veterinary Virology has spent in excess of 40 years researching EIA. He has concluded that a horse can live out its entire life as an asymptomatic carrier of the disease. The asymptomatic carrier shows no signs of the illness and is able to live out a normal life. Our horses are living proof of Dr. Issel’s life long study. Horses that are carriers of EIA do not require any special treatment, no extra veterinary care, nor does the disease shorten their life span. Through the years we have collaborated with and promoted the ability of researchers to study the horses through observation as well as by providing blood samples to study from our herd. It has been established in the veterinary community that the chance of an EIA inapparent carrier transmitting the disease to an uninfected horse is approximately one in six million. Currently, our herd is a mix of EIA asymptomatic carriers and EIA negative horses. Since the start of our rescue in the early 1970s, there has never been an instance in our herd where an infected horse has transmitted the disease to a negative horse. We are located virtually “across the street” from the Everglades where there is a very high content of horse flies and we are located in South Florida where it rains regularly making the setting perfect for transmission, yet it has never occurred. 


Our ranch was the brainchild of Mrs. Susan Young more than 40 years ago under the name of the “J & W Ranch”. Mrs. Young wanted to save the lives of horses that were carriers of Equine Infectious Anemia and provide an alternative for their owners other than their horse’s destruction. 


F.R.I.E.N.D.S., Inc. a non-profit 501 (c) 3 organization was born. The Articles of the Florida Research Institute for Equine Nurturing, Development and Safety, Inc. (aka F.R.I.E.N.D.S.) were filed on July 20, 1987. 




1. We save the lives of horses from unnecessary slaughter & euthanization.

(All horses, which react positively to the Coggins Test, must be slaughtered, euthanized or quarantined 600 feet away from the nearest negative horse. Most individuals do not own sufficient land to meet these strict quarantine requirements.)


2. We prevent the horse owner from going through the heartbreak of destroying a beloved companion.


3. We are educating the public about current research and facts about EIA while eradicating the myths and false information regarding the condition.


4. We provide research personnel access to the herd to carry out much needed observational and blood samples for their studies with the hope of discovering a cure, treatment or vaccine for this disease. F.R.I.E.N.D.S. continues to educate the general public about the findings while working with the USDA and various equine research facilities and groups such as Gluck at the University of Kentucky, Centaur, and Zoetis.


5. We engage the public in our established interactive community programs and continue to develop more programs to involve the public in mutually beneficial interactions which further our mission while giving back to the community in productive and positive ways.










Veterinary Science

College of Agriculture


Lexington, KY  40546-0099

(859) 257-4757

Fax (859) 257-8542

Writer’s Direct Dial Number



July 27, 2017



To whom it may concern:


This letter is written as evidence for the scientific value of the group of horses assembled by the FRIENDS Inc rescue team in south Florida.  The band of horses was first assembled in the early 1970’s by the grandmother of the current Director of FRIENDS, Debra Beye-Barwick, to provide a home for horses infected with equine infectious anemia virus (EIAV).  When it was started, the percentage of horses in Florida and Louisiana (where I was a faculty member at LSU) infected by this virus was around 5%.  Today, because of active control programs since 1972, the infection is rarely encountered in the US, because infected horses were generally killed when found infected. 


In 1984, the virus that causes AIDS, HIV, was identified and shown to be a very close relative of EIAV!  By contrast to AIDS-HIV, most persistent carriers of EIAV are without clinical signs of the disease.  Horses have provided us a useful model of how hosts can live long and productive lives with lentivirus infections, if given the chance.   My research program has worked with the horses assembled by the FRIENDS family since the 1970’s and today they represent a unique collection and one of the only places in the US where we can study the infection in persistently infected horses and understand better the risk they pose to uninfected horses in close physical contact. 


In prior years, the numbers of infected horses they cared for were much higher than today, a testament to the success of our control program.  Also in prior years, infected horses from other states were added to the group.  In recent years this has not been possible because Florida will not permit their entry, further limiting the numbers.  The FRIENDS group has continued to provide us access to this unique resource and I support and applaud their efforts to continue to maintain their activities in their excellent facilities.  Please contact me if additional information is desired.





Charles J. Issel, DVM, PhD

Wright-Markey Chair of Equine Infectious Diseases

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F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Horse Rescue & Sanctuary

Florida research Institute for equine nurturing, development & Safety, Inc.