THE founder of a Kerry based animal rescue charity has spoken of her shock after 14 ponies, many skin and bones, were rescued from a remote mid Kerry hillside. Nearby lay the carcasses of seven further ponies, partly eaten by foxes and other vermin.
"It's absolutely diabolical, the cruelty level has gone through the roof and the dead animals had been lying there for some time," Suzanne Gibbons, founder of Gneeveguilla based Animal Heaven Animal Rescue stated.
"They (survivors) haven't been wormed, their hooves are overgrown and they are just a mess. Two horses we rescued are completely emaciated, we're talking skin and bones, and it's 50/50 whether they will make it. When one lies down, for instance, it can't get up and we have to lift it," she added.
Discovered following a call to the Department of Agriculture, it is understood that the owner has surrendered all of the animals and the incident is currently being investigated by gardaí.
Despite founding AHAR in 1991, Suzanne said it had been the worst year to date for call-outs and highlighted several recent incidents.
"This has really shocked me, the last 12 months have been the worst in the last 20 years, I've never seen anything like this," she stated.
"The feeling is that people have no money and so animals are not being fed. There's also no hay as we've had two bad summers. We get calls on a daily basis and the majority recently involve horses. Even on Christmas Day there were two foals tied to my gatepost.
"It also stretches to domestic animals - you've no idea. In one week there was a pet goat dumped in woods in Killarney National Park that was going up to tourists looking for food, a pet rabbit in Tralee walking up to people in Tralee and even an iguana found in Milltown."
Suzanne said the public needs to be much more aware of potential incidents.
"The Department of Agriculture got a call from an unidentified party in relation to this incident, otherwise these animals may never have been found. There is absolutely no need for this happen - we need people to be more alert and give us a call. We're available 24-7 and never turn down an offer of going to see animals."
Meanwhile, AHAR has been offered widespread support for the ponies thanks to the group's Facebook page. Seven have already been booked in to new homes and further homes are currently being sought once the ponies are nursed back to health.
"The support has been unbelievable and is county and countrywide. In Kerry people are offering food and other supplies but we also need donations too. It costs €100 just for the medication and veterinary care as well as to microchip, vaccinate, de-worm and de-lice one horse - that's not including feeding or maintenance.
"We have also identified a new much needed site and hope to raise €100,000 for a deposit," she added.
AHAR has organised a sponsored walk which will be led by the charity's patron Sharon Shannon. It leaves from Ross Castle at 2pm on Sunday, April 21. Check out www.ahar.ie or Facebook for further details or contact Suzanne on (086) 1076729.