Graphic images: 'Horses are the most vulnerable victims of the Celtic Tiger' - DSPCA
It is said that Ireland is a nation of horse lovers. The reality, sadly, is very different.
As thousands descended on Cheltenham recently and will inevitably make the trip across to Aintree in Liverpool for the Grand National in a few weeks, it plunged media and public interest alike about the nations' love of horses.
However, a grim existence persists for thousands of animals who have been cast aside to wither and die in fields across the city of Dublin and beyond.
Our team of two inspectors receive anything ranging from 30 to 50 phone calls a day regarding horses. On Tuesday of last week alone, the office fielded 70 calls. Of those calls, the inspectors discovered that less than 5% of animals were micro-chipped.
In most cases the inspectors are finding animals without either food or water, visibly losing their condition. In some cases it is impossible to trace the owner of the equine or track down the owner of the land.
Since May 2013, all lands that hold equine should be registered. Sadly this is not being put into practice.
Horses are the most vulnerable victims of the Celtic Tiger and their over-population has led to their value plummeting to next to nothing.
In some cases there is a clear and present public danger.
In January a horse left a field near Clondalkin and strayed on to a busy dual carriageway. Panicked and starving, the animal crashed into a 7-seater people carrier which resulted in the car being a write-off. Thankfully nobody was seriously injured. However the poor horse was injured, in shock and - as it emerged once the DSPCA vet arrived on to the scene - in foal.
With the scale of the injuries suffered the horse had to be euthanized and as the lethal injection was being administered five more animals walked down the road. All were in search of escape for food and shelter.
In another case a heavy cob was found dead in a location in the Dublin Mountains known as Devil's Elbow. The animal was left to die and had recently given birth to a foal whose remains were also found nearby. Imagine the pain and the suffering of the mare in her final hours.
The DSPCA are seeing a huge increase in the numbers of calls being made to the shelter in Rathfarnham in both urban and rural areas. Since 1st March,
15 horses have sadly been euthanized and calls for assistance for horses, which can take anything up to three hours and often require cooperation from the likes of the Gardaí and Dublin Fire Brigade, are occupying most of the inspectors' time.
We will always try to supply feed to affected horses while attempting to track down the land-owner as we do not have the jurisdiction to directly seize animals. At present the DSPCA holds 15 equine animals including donkeys and ponies, many of whom are long-term residents, but we are full to capacity.
The fact remains that there is a thriving horse industry in the country with many people making tens of millions each year. The DSPCA is therefore calling on the neutering of every stallion except for those who possess a licence as 'working' stud stallions and that the horse industry subsidises the neutering. It is an established system that works similarly well for cattle at present. It won't solve the problem, but it will certainly help in the control of the horse population.
Many people are greedily chasing the dream of uncovering the next Arkle, Galileo, Red Rum or Seabiscuit. The reality is very different as greed inevitably leads to neglect.
2014 is supposedly the Chinese Year of the Horse - which is said to be a time of great fluctuation in fortune and stress.
Let's hope that the tide turns positively before the crisis worsens.
To support the DSPCA's efforts to prevent persecution and cruelty to all animals, including horses, donate today on www.dspca.ie.