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Banning sulky racing 'could make it more dangerous and drive it underground'

Another horse died on Sunday during one of these races.

A file photo of a sulky race that had to be stopped by gardaí.
A file photo of a sulky race that had to be stopped by gardaí.
Image: Dash Cams via YouTube

Updated 11.43am

A COMPLETE BAN on sulky racing would drive the practice “further underground”, groups have warned.

Pavee Point believes an overall ban on the sport would also result in the races becoming even more dangerous.

The Irish Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA) has reiterated calls for a ban of the races on public roads following the deaths of two horses, that allegedly occurred during sulky racing.

A horse died on Sunday afternoon after it broke free from its harness and hit an oncoming vehicle.

The incident occurred just after 2pm on the Waterford Road in Kilkenny.


The horse had to be euthanised by a vet due the severity of its injuries.

The driver was not harmed but was described as being badly shaken by the incident.

Co-director of Pavee Point, Martin Collins, told TheJournal.ie that he believes a complete ban could make the practice “more dangerous”.

“The point here is that this can be supported and made a viable and safe pastime,” he said, “both for spectators and those directly involved.”

He did add that racing on public roads “is quite reckless and dangerous”, and Pavee Point supports a ban on it.

Collins believes there is a “class issue” at play, and questioned the government “consistently pumping millions” into the horse racing industry, but giving no funding to activities such as sulky racing.

I’m calling for a parity of esteem.

He noted that Pavee Point is currently in talks with the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine on issues surrounding sulky racing.

The Department did not comment on these talks when contacted by this website.

Dr Andrew Kelly, CEO of the ISPCA, said that a ban of the racing on public roads is needed before there is a serious incident.

“Are we going to have to wait for a human fatality?” he said.

“We would prefer a situation where they were banned from use on public roads.”

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“It would be up to local authorities to provide a safe, off-road, sand-based track, where potentially the practice could be regulated and the welfare of the horses assured.”

Harness Racing at Colonial Downs File photo of a regulated sulky race. Source: tvnewsbadge via Flickr/Creative Commons

Kelly said the horses used in these races are sometimes found “standing in muddy areas, rarely with grass, frequently with no water… They don’t receive sufficient hydration after being involved in [these races]“.

The Roads Act of 1993 details rules surrounding the holding and organisation of road races.

“A person who intends to hold, organise or promote a road race shall give at least one month’s notice (or such other period of notice as may be prescribed by the Minister) in writing to the road authority and to the Superintendent of the Garda Síochána within whose district the road race is to be held,” the Act reads.

The Department of Agriculture noted that the “recently commenced Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 makes it illegal to do anything causing unnecessary suffering or endangerment to the health or welfare of an animal”, and that “An Garda Síochána are authorised officers under the Animal Health and Welfare Act”.

Originally published 7.15am

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Nicky Ryan

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