The defenders of the Portland Police Bureau's mounted patrol are saddling up.
Less than three hours after Mayor Charlie Hales announced that his proposed budget would eliminate the mounted patrol, the city's horse lobby started a Facebook campaign to make him change his mind.
First spotted by The Portland Mercury, the "Save Portland's Mounted Patrol" page includes photos and a video of the police horses playing in their Pearl District stable—and an email address where citizens can contact Hales to demand the unit be restored.
Condo developer Bob Ball, who leads the advocacy group Friends of Portland's Mounted Patrol, says he helped start the Facebook page to spark a grassroots campaign to lobby City Hall before a final budget is created in June.
"I think people in Portland like the horses," Ball says. "And they're going to want to save them. It's now time for the citizens to contact City Hall and make their voices heard."
Friends of Portland's Mounted Patrol offered earlier this month to increase its annual contribution to the horseback cops from $25,000 to $75,000 annually for the next three years to feed, care for and house the horses. The full cost of the unit, including officers, is $1.1 million.
The advocacy group also launched a horse sponsorship program, asking people or businesses donate $5,000 to feed, equip and care for each of the unit's 10 horses.
Ball says he doesn't know what would happen to the horses, currently housed on Northwest Naito Parkway, if the unit is cut.
"It's something I'm very worried about," he says. "We'd try to find good homes for them. But I'm very concerned about where they would go."