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Bought for €8, the horses then left to starve and die

CRUEL horse traders are selling neglected animals to youths for as little as €8.

Dozens of horses have been found either dead or seriously malnourished after being left to starve on lands in west Dublin.

Tens of thousands of euros are to be spent rounding up at least 30 abandoned horses over the coming weeks.

The horses were left in an appalling condition for months on fields in Clondalkin and have been dying amid calls for action by animal welfare groups and local councillors.

South Dublin County Council began an operation to seize the animals on Saturday. A council spokesperson said the bill for the disposal of the horses would be passed on to the landowner.

The council had no figure for the total cost but the Herald understands it could range from €18,000 if the horses are all to be destroyed, or up to €90,000 to save them.

The Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA) has said it is struggling financially because of the high cost of dealing with horses it has removed from the Clondalkin sites and other lands around the capital in recent months. Spokesperson Orla Aungier said the horses had been subjected to terrible neglect and cruelty.

"The horses we have removed were in an absolutely appalling state of emaciation", she said. "There have been problems at that site for several years, there are animals there in a very distressing condition. Some of the horses we took have made slow progress, others have not. At the moment there are 12 dead horses there. There are no words to describe the scene, it has been strewn with the carcasses of animals that have literally died of starvation.

"Our stables in Rathfarnham are full to limit. It can take up to seven men to retrieve a horse because they can be difficult to catch after being terrorised by people. It can take hours".

Local councillor William Lavelle (FG) said it was time to consider banning the Smithfield market because of the resources being spent on rounding up stray horses.

"A huge amount of money is being spent. Even if the land-owner is being pursued to pay for it, this is money that would not have to be spent and animals that would not have to suffer if we had more regular control of horse-selling in Dublin," Cllr Lavelle said.

"If there was more regular enforcement of the Control of Horses Act by local authorities on a day to day basis, we wouldn't have a situation where we have the most appalling cases of animal neglect, animals starving, even impaled on railings," Ms Aungier said.

"We cannot turn a blind eye to what is going on, however there are serious financial repercussions. Every horse that we take in costs an average of €3,000.

"We know that there are hundreds of horses in similar distress, as the only welfare group rescuing these horses in Dublin. We are urgently appealing to the public for financial assistance", she added.