Farm Ireland

Thursday 14 December 2017

Follow recommended advice to prevent or deal with neglect

Veterinary Ireland (VI) president Joe Collins has urged horse owners to consider these options for dealing with unwanted horses:

  • Sale: If an owner finds themselves in a position where they can no longer provide adequate care for their animal, they may opt to sell. Unfortunately, the economic downturn has caused the equine market to constrict this to the extent that some animals have low or no economic value left.

  • Retraining: Some horses may be good for retraining or donation to therapeutic riding programmes. But only a limited number of such places are available and owners need to be realistic about the type of animal that can be placed in them. Visit for further retraining advice.

  • Recruitment: This option still needs the long-term provision of the animal's needs to be recognised. Placing a horse in a field and failing to ensure its needs are met does not constitute acceptable horse welfare. It also gives rise to the threat of legal prosecution. If you encounter a potential case of animal cruelty or neglect, contact the ISPCA National Cruelty Helpline on 1890 515 515.

  • Humane destruction: This, in some cases, may be the only viable option to prevent welfare problems. VI is of the opinion that responsible horse ownership sometimes includes having to make end-of-life decisions, and humane destruction is preferable to horses being abandoned, neglected or left without adequate food and shelter. Vets can carry out this procedure humanely on the premises where the horse is normally kept.

  • Disposal of the carcass by burial is no longer an option under environmental protection legislation. The knackery service is licensed by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to collect and safely dispose of animal carcasses throughout the country.

    Humane euthanasia of horses at licensed slaughter plants under veterinary supervision is also an option. In this instance, the horse must have a passport and be in a fit state to be transported to the slaughter facility -- ie not suffering from a severe lameness or other significant medical conditions.

    The disposal of the carcass at the slaughter plant is in accordance with national and EU legislation. Animals with passports that have been signed or stamped as "not intended for slaughter for human consumption" must not enter the food chain.

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