Animal charities have come to the aid of more than 60 animals – mostly horses, ponies and donkeys – seized from a property in Antrim, Northern Ireland. Nine carcasses were found on the property.
An experienced welfare officer said it was as bad as anything he had seen in 20 years working in horse welfare.
Police even placed a 24-hour guard on the property to ensure the equines suffered no further cruelty.
The charities stepped in to help police in Northern Ireland in the operation on a farm at Lisnevenagh Road in Antrim. The animals were discovered in squalid conditions by a vet last Tuesday, according to Redwings Horse Sanctuary.
Police were called and found the animals living amongst the carcasses of nine dead animals, it said. Officers made arrangements to have the animals examined by specialist vets and other experts.
Four animals were found to be in such poor condition that they had to be humanely put down.
Once examined the animals were then removed from the site and placed in animal sanctuaries.
“When police arrived at Lisnevenagh Road we were met with a truly heartbreaking scene,” investigating officer Sergeant Alison Liddle said.
“These animals were effectively starving to death in the most dire of conditions – there was no clean bedding, no water and nowhere for them to move around. Live animals were being forced to live next to the rotting carcasses of other dead animals. No animal should be made to endure such horrendous cruelty.
“Every officer who attended has been affected by what they saw. This has made us determined to pursue the persons responsible and make sure they are found accountable for their despicable cruelty in a court of law.”
Liddle continued: “We are so grateful for the support and assistance we have received over recent days from Crosskennan Lane Animal Sanctuary and The Donkey Sanctuary.
“Without their expertise and facilities this case would have been much more difficult for all of us. These organisations serve a very important purpose in helping police deal appropriately with animal cruelty and in taking care of animals that have been abused in such a terrible way.”
Redwings’ head of welfare, Nic de Brauwere, who is chairman of the National Equine Welfare Council, helped with the rescue operation.
“The conditions I witnessed in Antrim were as bad as anything I have seen in 20 years working in horse welfare,” he said.
“It was imperative that action was taken to protect the horses, ponies and donkeys from further suffering.
“I was overwhelmed to see how Alison and the other police officers went above and beyond the call of duty in their efforts to rescue these defenceless animals.
“Officers even provided a 24-hour guard at the farm to ensure the animals were protected from any further harm while we sought refuge for them.
“Crosskennan and the Donkey Sanctuary have now provided this safe haven and we are all extremely grateful to them. In this tough time of limited resources it was really quite humbling to see this kind of dedication to animal welfare.”
Redwings’ welfare Vet Nicola Berryman is now in County Antrim to offer support to the local charities, whose resources are being stretched by the sheer scale of the operation.
It is likely that, once they have begun to recover, Redwings will also assist by giving sanctuary and necessary care to a number of the rescued ponies.
The Donkey Sanctuary said it assisted in the rescue of 16 horses and 10 donkeys from the property.
It said it stepped in followign a request for help from the police.
It reported the animals had been shut in squalid conditions without food or water and left knee deep in their own excrement.
Sadly, the charity said, the rescue effort came too late for some of the animals, leaving surviving horses and donkeys living next to the decomposing carcasses of their companions.
The sanctuary’s regional welfare officer Allen Andrews, who is responsible for Northern Ireland, described the conditions where the animals were found: “On arrival at the site, it was clear that these animals had been severely neglected, and the surviving horses and donkeys were the most emaciated I have ever seen.
“It is common practice to rate the body conditions of donkeys on a scale of one to five – one being severely emaciated and five being obese.
“Some of these donkeys barely met the criteria for being a condition score one, and it was apparent their time was running out.
“All ten of the donkeys are now being given expert veterinary attention in the care of The Donkey Sanctuary, and we transported 16 of the surviving horses to Crosskennan Lane Animal Sanctuary, where they will now be cared for.
“Only time will tell whether these desperate animals will be able to recover fully from their ordeal.