Animal charity chief urges new controls as dozens of horses starve to death
THE head of an animal rescue charity in Dublin has called for urgent control measures to combat the growing number of starving wild horses.
Animal charities are under pressure following an "alarming" increase in call-outs to horses – prompting Brian Gillen to call for a publicly funded castration scheme for stallions.
Mr Gillen, of the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA), said the immediate introduction of this scheme had to be a priority to control the number of unwanted horses.
"We are getting eight or nine calls per day relating to horses with nothing to eat," he said.
"We had two dead horses in Rathfarnham and Tallaght over the last few days, both due to starvation. We need a database and population control, that's the only way we will solve the horse welfare problem."
Mr Gillen said a centralised database to identify horse owners through micro-chipping, as well as a scheme to subsidise the castration of stallions, was urgently needed.
It is a similar story all over the country, compounded by fodder shortages and massive ries in the cost of hay and silage.
Two more ponies in a seriously emaciated condition were surrendered to the Animal Heaven Animal Rescue (AHAR) centre in Gneeveguilla, Co Kerry.
This week already it had taken in 14 near-death ponies that had been rescued from a hillside by Department of Agriculture inspectors. Two have subsequently died. Seven other carcasses were found in the area.
Suzanne Gibbons, of AHAR, said it had been the worst year in 20 years for call-outs.
"The feeling is that people have no money and so animals are not being fed. There's no hay because we've had two bad summers," she said.
"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."
In Cork, ISPCA inspector Lisa O'Donovan described the situation as a "nightmare", with the discovery of 12 dead animals in the last month.
Ms O'Donovan said the situation was catastrophic and the lack of feed had led to a welfare crisis for horses.
The ISPCA have also said their shelters were full, making it almost impossible to help sick and neglected animals.
The society has now called on local authorities and the Department of Agriculture to take action in every county to ensure equine legislation is enforced and that horses have been micro-chipped or "passported", as required under law.
Barbara Bent, of the ISPCA, said she was fearful hundreds of horses could die as a result of the current cold snap.
"People are under serious pressure with scarce supplies of feed and rising prices for fodder. We paid €30 per bale for hay and €43 per bale for haylage to help some horses in dire straits today," she said.