ANIMAL RIGHTS CAMPAIGNERS are angry over the deaths of four horses in Kilkenny this week.
TheJournal.ie learned that four pregnant mares were euthanised by Kikenny County Council on Wednesday, despite rehoming offers from numerous equine rescue services.
Pauline Doyle, who runs a Horse Sanctuary in Waterford, said that nobody in the pound acknowledged her offer to take the horses.
“I’m really, really angry,” she told TheJournal.ie. “Under European law, an animal is seen as a sentient being with a right to life.
“There is no reason on earth why they should have been put down.”
Doyle, who is equine registered and keeps her rescued animals on 30 acres of land, says that she was not the only one who offered to rehome the horses.
She claims the mares were “due to foal within a matter of days” and that would have been obvious to anybody who saw them.
Kilkenny County Council told TheJournal.ie that “whether or not a mare is in foal does not affect the decision to euthanise a horse”.
A spokesperson said a pregnancy would not be “readily apparent without a specific veterinary examination” and that the attention provided to each impounded horse does not include the necessary exam.
The council confirmed that a total of six horses were put down on Wednesday.
In a statement, it said:
Unfortunately under the Control of Horses Act, County Councils have the distressing task of dealing with the large numbers of unwanted, stray horses in the country. Under the legislation, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) funds County Councils to implement the Act.
However DAFM has recently reduced the level of funding available and it no longer covers the full cost of implementation of the Act. In particular DAFM no longer funds re-homing of horses. Each Council is expected to recover its full costs from the person re-homing a horse.
Since the economic downturn, the number of stray horses has continued to rise dramatically.
Between 2008 and 2012 Councils across the country impounded over 10,000 stray horses. As the number of horses increases, the percentage euthanised has increased.
This group horses were removed from council land after the tenants moved on.
Since January of this year, Kilkenny has impounded 54 horses and picked up the carcasses of four horses.
Only four horses were returned to their owners and 12 of the horses were in such poor condition that they had to be euthanised immediately on humane grounds.
The remainder have bee euthanised by a registered veterinary practitioner. Only one horse remains in the pound.
According to the council’s statement, the carcasses of 20 dead horses have been found since the beginning of 2013.
“The circumstances of their deaths were far from humane,” it said.
“Impounding of horses has done nothing to resolve the national problem of too many unwanted horses in the country. A solution is required that includes curtailment of indiscriminate breeding of horses. There are not enough places to re-home them all.”
Doyle agrees that immediate action is needed.
“I’m very much against the cull of Ireland’s horses,” she explained. “They cannot kill 18,000 horses. If they do, there will just be thousands more ponies next year.
“However, I am not naive enough to think that we can save them all.
“But these five foaling mares could have been saved. It is heartbreaking that they were not when there were homes available to them.”
In the past year, Doyle has rehomed two thoroughbreds, rescued five young horses which were found on a road in Tipperary and broke in an 11-year-old which is now being ridden by an 11-year-old girl.
She has called for the government to bring in a strict licensing regime for breeding with heavy penalties for those who do not adhere.
Doyle also tried to dispel a myth that the Traveller community is connected to many of the abandoned horses.
“It is not Travellers,” she said, emphatically. “It was greedy people during the boom – but now that there is no money involved, horses are being dumped left, right and centre.”
The solution, she says, must come from all stakeholders moving forward together, including the Thoroughbred industry, the Traveller community, the government and horse rescue services.
Minister Simon Coverney has repeatedly rejected proposed culls, claiming there is no major welfare problem.