Animal crisis as number of abandoned horses and ponies rockets during lockdown

Animal crisis as number of abandoned horses and ponies rockets during lockdown

 

Britain is facing an equine welfare catastrophe, an animal charity has warned.

The number of abandoned horses and ponies has tripled since the last recession in 2009, and it’s feared the situation will only get worse due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Although new rules making it ­compulsory to microchip all horses and ponies came into place on Thursday, it’s thought that around 7,000 animals are still at risk of neglect.

The RSPCA already has more than 750 horses in its care – and as winter approaches, it is bracing itself for an influx of abandoned animals.

Chris Sherwood, the charity’s CEO, said: “Around 70 per cent of the horses we rescue are not microchipped.

“When legislation demanding compulsory microchipping came in for dogs, the number of strays reduced by 20 per cent in four years – but, ­unfortunately, we just don’t think that’s going to happen for horses.

“Without rigorous enforcement and tough ­financial penalties, there is little to stop irresponsible horse owners continuing to dump their animals.”

Since lockdown began in March, the RSPCA has responded to more than 5,400 incidents relating to horses.

A recent survey by the National Equine Welfare Council and Association of Dogs and Cats Homes also revealed that almost two-thirds of equine rescue centres have seen ­donations fall by more than half since the start of the pandemic.

Mr Sherwood told how the RSPCA had been “struggling to pick up the pieces of the horse crisis since the last recession”.

He added: “As we enter what could be the ­biggest financial downturn of a generation, we face unprecedented challenges due to the pandemic.

“We are calling on the Government to step in with financial support and recognise that the animal welfare ­sector is under huge strain.”

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