Thousands of horses and ponies are “at risk” as a welfare “crisis” is expected to hit the equine population this winter.
A combination of over-breeding and the recession hitting horse-owners hard will mean a huge increase in the numbers abandoned or given to rehoming centres, and the Government needs to act now to stop “another winter of misery” for hundreds of ponies and horses.
The West’s leading horse sanctuary has contributed to a landmark report given to MPs today that details how 6,000 horses are at risk, and warns of an approaching equine crisis in England and Wales.
Charities like the RSPCA and Horse World at Whitchurch, near Bristol, said that animal charities like theirs will be physically unable to cope with the imminent rise in the numbers of horses being given up or abandoned as they are brought in for the winter and feed costs rise.
Horse World saw a threefold increase in the number of abandoned and neglected horses it rescued this year compared to last year, and the report details a similar story with other centres elsewhere in the country.
The RSPCA saw numbers of abandoned horses double last winter from previous years. Horses can cost up to £100 per week to look after and in the current financial climate, people try to cut back on vet costs, hoof care and feed. This inevitably leads to welfare problems, explained RSPCA spokesman David Bowles. The biting recession can mean horse owners try to give up their expensive animals, while horse breeders, particularly in Ireland, are continuing to produce significant numbers of horses, bringing them to England and finding no one wants them.
Mr Bowles continued: “Both factors have led to a visible increase in the problem of fly grazing – illegal grazing of horses on public and private land. Fly grazing is a problem for farmers, landowners and local authorities, and increasingly it is leading to welfare concerns, as too often these owners do not provide basic care for their animals.
“People need to start realising that there is very little financial reward in breeding horses and ponies, especially where there is poor husbandry or the animals have genetic problems. You won’t make your fortune.”
Roly Owers, the chief executive of World Horse Welfare, said: “The organisations are already at breaking point with a severe shortage of available places and we are aware of an additional 6,000 horses which could be at risk over the winter.
“We are urging the public who can offer a horse a home to please do so now.”