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Horror scenes greet horse rescuers, 35 animals dead

January 10, 2008

Animals welfare agencies and police have converged on a property in Buckinghamshire, England, to remove nearly 100 horses alleged to be suffering from neglect.

Terrible scenes greeted rescuers, with the bodies of 32 horses found in the field near Amersham.

One welfare group said it appeared as if the horses, ponies and donkeys had been forgotten and left to die.

Britain's RSPCA was tipped off after a member of the public reported seeing a dead horse in the field.

Inspectors first visited last Friday. Fourteen horses that an inspector described as suffering were removed from the property.

"The horses were taken into possession by the police on veterinary advice," an RSPCA spokesman said.

Three more horses had to be put to sleep because of their condition.

RSPCA inspectors and animal collection officers were back at the address between Friday and Sunday, together with officers from Thames Valley police and representatives from the International League for the Protection of Horses (ILPH).

This Wednesday an operation began to remove the remaining 84 horses, with staff from the RSPCA, Redwings Horse Sanctuary, the ILPH and the Blue Cross working with police.

Redwings said the 32 equines that had died appeared to have been left where they fell.

More than 30 Redwings staff and eight horse boxes were used in the rescue effort.

"While 32 of the group were already dead, three more had to be put to sleep as they were considered too ill to be moved or rehabilitated," the group said in a statement.

"Our expert team have travelled to rescues on many occasions ... but rarely sees cruelty so far advanced that equines are seemingly forgotten and literally left to die."

Redwings will provide care, rehabilitation and homes to some of the equines while others will go to an undisclosed safe location.

"All organisations involved in this rescue are deeply concerned about the welfare of the remaining and surviving horses, ponies and donkeys," the group said.

"Redwings are hopeful that a prosecution of the owner will follow for both the deceased equines and those surviving that were considered to be in an unacceptable condition but it is too early to comment on this in full."

The RSPCA, which released a brief statement about the rescue, said the incident may be subject to possible prosecution after a full investigation.

A man, 44, was arrested by Thames Valley Police for allegedly assaulting a police officer and criminal damage.

It is understood that police are questioning him over alleged neglect of the horses.

The International League for the Protection of Horses confirmed it was assisting the RSPCA in the rescue operation.

"An ILPH field officer has been on site since Friday assisting the RSPCA and it is very likely that some of the horses will come into ILPH care pending a possible prosecution by the RSPCA."

Redwings Horse Sanctuary said it was amazed at the number of phone calls and emails received from the general public, all offering practical help, donations and words of support, as media coverage of the rescue unfolded.

"It has been heart-warming to know that the charity's supporters and members of the public support equine welfare so enthusiastically," said communications manager Nicola Markwell.

"As a charity, we rely entirely on the goodwill of the public," she said. "Without donations, we could not afford to run our organisation let alone be able to send 30 staff and eight horseboxes out on a rescue like this. Thank you to everyone for their support."



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