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'It's a waste of animals' lives': A new film looks at why 2,000 horses are killed by Irish councils every year

165 out of 183 horses claimed by Dublin City Council last year were unclaimed by their owners.

Image: Shutterstock/Laura Battiato

THE DIRECTOR OF a new short film about Dublin’s horse control crisis believes there is a lack of political will to solve the problem at a national level.

Eoin Lúc Ó Ceallaigh, formerly of The42.ie, said he was told by a spokesman for the Department of Agriculture during the making of his new documentary Blinkers that there was not enough public interest in the issue for politicians to act.

The short film, which looks at how unenforced microchipping laws, high pound release fees and unregulated breeding have led to a stark situation for horses in Dublin, will screen at the Dublin International Short Film & Music Festival next month.

Ó Ceallaigh told TheJournal.ie that he became interested in the issue when he saw figures which showed 165 out of 183 horses claimed by Dublin City Council last year were unclaimed by their owners.

Nineteen of those 165 horses were rehomed; the rest were put down. The entire process cost the council more than €145,000.

“What shocked me was that they’re not just numbers on a page,” he said.

“I thought that if people actually see these horses that are being killed, it might make the problem resonate a bit more.”

While the number of horses seized and culled by other local authorities outside Dublin isn’t as high, the huge fraction of those killed is just as stark.

In the last five years, 12,786 horses have been seized by Ireland’s 34 local authorities, of which 17% (2,308) were reclaimed by their owners or re-homed with other owners. The remaining 83% – more than 10,000 horses – were euthanised.

Ó Ceallaigh points to a number of systemic reasons behind the trend.

He explains that it costs €700 to reclaim a horse from Dublin City Council, whereas horses can be bought in Dublin for less than €50. That €700 fee rises each day a horse is left in the pound, where it is euthanised if it is unclaimed after five days.

Sometimes, people simply can’t afford to pay the release fee, even when they want to.

During the film, Ó Ceallaigh talks to horse owner David Mulreany, who explains that horse ownership is traditional to parts of the city, where it was a way of business for those who were too poor to keep a car.

Horse Source: Eoin Lúc Ó Ceallaigh

Mulreany – the driver for the Lord Mayor of Dublin – describes how he has made his living off horses, and suggests that horses still offer an opportunity to people in Dublin.

“For a lad coming from the Liberties to sit up on a carriage worth €3 million and drive your babies underneath it, that to me is worth more than anything in the world,” he says.

But he also suggests that the government needs to do more to help horse owners, and to ensure the welfare of animals.

Ó Ceallaigh agrees, suggesting that more investment in horse control in Dublin and stronger microchipping laws may be the solution.

“It might take a bit of investment,” he says.

“But if the money that was spent feeding and putting down horses was spent on a horse warden and enforcement of laws, that could work.

“The system is broken. I’m covering it from the outside, but from a lot of people I spoke to, that’s how it is. It really seems to be a waste of animals’ lives.”

  • Blinkers will be screened at the Dublin International Short Film & Music Festival, which runs from 4-6 October.

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