Britain’s equine welfare crisis continues to be fuelled by people being able to breed excess horses without any consequences, a leading charity says.
Redwings says fly-grazing – the practice of illegal grazing on public or private land – continues to be central to the problem, but welfare head Nicolas de Brauwere says the situation is aggravated by “it being too easy to produce an excess of animals without any responsibility, without any comeback”.
De Brauwere was commenting after the charity featured in an ITV Wales television programme highlighting charities working to ease the horse welfare crisis.
The charity says indiscriminate breeding, falling values and rising costs to owners have led to what it calls a welfare disaster.
The show, Wales This Week, explored the pressure on equine charities in helping the ever-increasing number of horses and ponies in need.
Redwings said it was “not unaccustomed” to rescuing large numbers of abandoned, neglected and emaciated horses from Welsh common land.
Without regulation of equine identification, it was increasingly difficult to bring owners to account, it said.
Redwings said it currently provided direct care for more than 1300 horses, ponies, donkeys and mules.
It said fly-grazing was a primary factor in the welfare crisis.
“Although by law, all horses are required to have a passport and those born since 2009 to be microchipped, there is no central register available by which to store horse and owner information,” the charity said in a statement.
“Indeed, a once-established National Equine Database was removed by UK Government in 2012 as a cost-saving measure.”
De Brauwere told the show that abandoned horses were being euthanised because they were suffering. However, with charities at maximum capacity, the concern for the immediate future was that horses would be put to sleep because they have nowhere to go.
Redwings welcomed the Welsh Government’s introduction of the Control of Horses (Wales) Act 2014 – new legislation giving Welsh local authorities greater powers to seize fly-grazed horses and prosecute owners.
However, it acknowledged that the law placed a greater demand on resources at a time when councils were having budgets cut.
Charities are calling for Westminster to follow suit by making a change to the law to enable authorities in England to seize horses. They also want a central equine database.