Opinion Former Article

RSPCA hosts equine summit to tackle horse crisis

National Equine Welfare Council members join forces to look for solution

The RSPCA has hosted a summit with other leading charities, welfare groups and equine experts to tackle the growing horse crisis.

In the past year the number of horses and pony which have come into the RSPCA care because of neglect and cruelty has doubled and other equine charities are also struggling to cope with an influx of animals.

Members of the National Equine Welfare Council (NEWC) met at the RSPCA in Southwater, West Sussex, to discuss the scale of the problem, trends in the trade of horses and market prices and how best to tackle the problem.

Speakers from Redwings, RSPCA and World Horse Welfare described how frontline charity workers are trying to cope with the growing number of abused, abandoned and neglected horses.

RSPCA Chief Inspector Cathy Hyde, said: “The grim picture of the horse crisis is there are about 3,000 horses and ponies across the UK which are currently at risk and all welfare groups are full to bursting.

“Dealers are struggling to sell their horses so their groups are getting larger and larger. In some cases foals are being sold for as little as £1 each at markets so for unscrupulous dealers it’s easier and more profitable to let horses suffer and die than pay for their care.”

The RSPCA recently launched an emergency appeal called Stable Future to find foster homes for the ‘growing tide’ of youngsters coming into our care and we have recruited a specialist team of equine officers to tackle the increasing calls about abandoned and abused horses.

The summit, which included representatives of 17 rescue centres, three governments, Local Authorities and universities, discussed a number of ways to tackle the horse crisis including using birth control, improving and enforcing legislation and finding more homes.

It was suggested that NEWC:

· Creates a clear strategy for making governments and the public aware of the scale and nature of the problem and how to tackle it

· Explore making horses more readily identifiable and linked to their keepers and location

· Extend the reach of horse welfare work by sharing knowledge and skills of our members

· Work with horse owners, particularly large scale owner and breeders to prevent numbers growing further

NEWC Chairman, Nicolas de Brauwere MRCVS, head of Head of Welfare, Rehabilitation and Education, Redwings Horse Sanctuary, said: “We are being deluged with horses left, right and centre. It’s only by coming together that we can solve this.

“Is it acceptable on welfare grounds to euthanse perfectly healthy horses because there’s no home for them? In the ideal world I don’t think so but I don’t think we will have many choices if the numbers of horses coming in this winter are similar to last winter. We have got some very stark choices to make.

 “We have to find a way to weather this current storm and also find ways to prevent people from being able to grow their equine numbers out of control in good times in the knowledge that others will clean up their mess.

“When the mess involves the suffering of animals it is an unacceptable situation we must try to prevent in any way we can.”

ends

Notes to editors:

· For photos, interviews with RSPCA staff or more information about the Stable Future appeal, equine officers or numbers of horses in our care, contact Catherine Peerless on 0300 1230005.

The National Equine Welfare Council (NEWC) is a not for profit organisation founded in 1977. NEWC offers support, guidance and a communication forum to a multitude of equine organisations, businesses, charities and establishments to help raise equine welfare standards nationwide. NEWC has evolved to become a united voice for the industry on equine welfare matters and its work includes support for small welfare organisations, making representations to Government and advising individuals. To find out more call 01926 866655, email info@newc.co.uk or log onto http://www.newc.co.uk/
Speakers and topics – for more information contact the relevant press office.
RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant, Chief Inspector Cathy Hyde and Stephen Carter the regional manager for Wales, Nic de Brauwere from Redwings and David Boyd from World Horse Welfare - the scale of the problem and the view from the frontline.
Dr Lisa Boden, University of Glasgow – the demographics and movements of the UK horse population and welfare implications.
World Horse Welfare, Phil Lawson – economics in the horse trade, a perspective from the third sector
Equine Market Watch, Sandy Redmore – a view from the markets, trends in price and quality
Dartmoor Hill Pony Association, Charlotte Faulkner and British Horse Society Lee Hackett – the use of birth control in low-value horses
Defra, Sue Ellis, head of animal welfare and Gareth Jones-Beili, the equine lead at the Welsh Government – what part can improving legislation and enforcement play, challenges and solutions
Blue Cross, Kath Urwin, Rolleston re-homing centre manager



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Duty press officer (evenings and weekends) Tel 08448 222888 and ask for pager number 828825
Email: press@rspca.org.uk Website: www.rspca.org.uk

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