Animal neglect at crisis point
COMPLAINTS about horse abuse and neglect have doubled in the first six months of this year, as fears increase that thousands of emaciated animals will not make it through another winter.
At the Dublin Horse Show animal welfare bodies are highlighting the plight of thousands of horses country-wide that will never make it to the elite RDS event but instead will battle to survive the coming months.
The Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA) said it received two more reports of horses dying yesterday.
Inadequate water and feed and failure to give basic treatments such as worming, as well as inbreeding and outright cruelty had all contributed to a welfare crisis that was evident in rural and city areas alike, the society said.
The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA) said it had received 400 complaints about horse mistreatment in 2008, and this had soared to 1,142 in 2009 as the recession resulted in increased neglect.
In the first six months of this year it had received another 1,124 complaints, which represented a 100pc increase on an already bad situation last year, said ISPCA chairperson Barbara Bent.
"What you have is the overproduction of low-value horses. We are in for a hell of a winter because horses that are weakened and emaciated now are not going to make it through," she said.
Horse Sport Ireland (HSI), Horse Racing Ireland and the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders' Association yesterday announced they had formed a new industry working group to come up with solutions to welfare issues raised in a recent UCD report.
HSI chairman Joe Walsh said that while most owners treated their horses responsibly it was important that the industry worked to reduce problems.
"It is particularly important the thoroughbred and sport horse sector take a united approach," he said.
"The rescue organisations do a super job but the real challenge is to try and reduce the number of welfare cases.
"This is where I would see this group focusing its efforts."
They would focus on traceability, as it was important that owners could be held accountable if they abandoned or mistreated their horses.
"We need a system to track ownership so that we can verify who owns a horse at any point in time," he added.
The DSPCA said that it had had to put down 76 horses last year.
This situation was replicated all around the country and the society will take in even more emaciated animals this year, with two more deaths reported yesterday.
"We are deeply, deeply concerned about the situation," said DSPCA operations manager Orla Aungier. "We are calling on the Department of Agriculture and the local authorities to enforce the powers they do have over owners."