Elderly farmers breeding horses 'indiscriminately'
Indiscriminate breeding of horses by elderly farmers is one of several drivers behind the increasing number of horse welfare cases being dealt with by the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA).
Older farmers who used to keep five or six horses have increased their horse numbers dramatically to 30-40 horses, ISPCA chairperson Barbara Bent told a welfare conference organised by the Irish Horse Welfare Trust.
Calls to the ISPCA helpline about equine welfare have increased fivefold between 2008 and 2010, from 453 calls in 2008 to 2,066 calls last year.
The trend has continued into 2011, with 614 equine calls registered in the first quarter of this year.
Ms Bent said equine welfare problems centred around horses being left to fend for themselves on development land, dealers getting horses cheaper and keeping too many as a result, so-called 'urban horses' and trotters, as well as elderly farmers breeding horses indiscriminately.
Orla Aungier from the Dublin SPCA warned that well-intentioned people were setting themselves up as horse rescue organisations without the legal knowledge of how to deal with mistreated animals.
"They have the best of intentions but they are in fact stealing horses off private land," she pointed out. "Some of these are just children and it's a very dangerous thing to do. Welfare cases must be dealt with in a safe and legal fashion."
Meanwhile, Des Leadon from the Irish Equine Centre told the conference that the Department of Agriculture had agreed to provide funding, along with the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association and Kildangan Stud, for a national survey of the unwanted horse population in Ireland. The survey is expected to be complete by November this year.