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Brighter dawn greets 111 horses rescued from horror farm

January 10, 2008

A brighter dawn has greeted the 111 horses rescued by welfare agencies from a horror farm in Buckinghamshire, England.

The scale of the alleged mistreatment of the horses at the property has been branded as unprecedented by the British Horse Society.

Staff of the British RSPCA visited the property on Friday to find 32 horses dead on the property. Over the weekend 14 horses were removed and in the following days a massive recovery operation was launched involving police and other horse welfare groups to carry off the remainder of the animals.

Three horses were euthanized at the property to end their suffering.

The RSPCA says a total of 111 horses, ponies and donkeys have now been moved to safety from the farm, which is near Amersham. They are now in the care of the RSPCA, Redwings Horse Sanctuary and the International League for the Protection of Horses. Blue Cross also assisted in the rescue efforts, and it is understood other horse welfare groups have taken animals.

RSPCA Superintendent Tim Wass said: "It has been a massive operation to remove and arrange for the ongoing care of such a large number of animals, many of whom were in desperate need of veterinary treatment.

"Our officers, along with those from supporting welfare charities, have been working tirelessly to secure their welfare in what have been appalling circumstances."

The incident may be subject to possible prosecution following a full investigation and no further details can be released at this time, he said.

Redwings Sanctuary said it had been inundated with messages of support, with 250 internet donations coming in overnight, Many had offered practical support, such as equipment or covers.

"We are experienced in sending veterinary and horse-handling staff, and vehicles, to operations involving rescues but this has been the largest, and saddest, that we have witnessed," a spokesman said. "Yesterday was understandably difficult for all our staff."

Redwings provided 30 staff and eight horseboxes, carrying the horses initially to a safe "holding" location. Later that day, 30 of the horses, ponies and donkeys were taken into Redwings' care as they were assessed as needing veterinary care on arrival. "Having a horse hospital and a team of veterinary staff, this we can provide."

"We cannot say at this point if some [more] of the equines at the holding centre will come to us, but it is possible. The equines had a comfortable journey in the safe and experienced hands of our welfare staff.

"Our amazing head vet, Nic de Brauwere who was on scene all day yesterday and oversaw operations with senior staff from other organisations, travelled back last night with his charges and is today starting treatment."

"Redwings Horse Sanctuary has travelled to rescues on many occasions and provided a home from and/or transportation from the place of rescue, but rarely sees cruelty so far advanced that equines are seemingly forgotten and literally left to die.

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

"The people that work for Redwings are, like many of the public, animal lovers as well, and yesterday was a traumatic and difficult day for everyone but today is a new start for many of these equines and as always our priority is their care and recovery.

"Thank you to everyone who has offered their support and also donations; our work is only possible thanks to the goodwill of the public and we are proud to have shown everyone yesterday what we can do when the need arises."

The International League for the Protection of Horses said it had also been overwhelmed by the public response to the case.

"We have received countless calls and emails from people offering their support in housing some of the horses removed from this appalling situation and we are extremely grateful for all these offers.

"The horses have been split between a number of welfare agencies, including the ILPH, so the immediate housing problems have been dealt with.

"However, large cases like this do put a strain on our yards as they are dealing with an increased number of horses, many of whom need intense and specialist care.

"We currently have horses and ponies ready to be rehomed through our loan scheme, and finding homes for these animals will help us deal with these recent admissions."

The British Horse Society - Britain's largest horse charity, with a membership of more than 106,000 - voiced its support for the work of the horse rescue charities

Welfare Senior Executive Lee Hackett said: "The horse welfare community is deeply shocked by the extent of what has happened in Buckinghamshire.

"We wholeheartedly condemn any mistreatment of horses and ponies. Mistreatment on this scale is unprecedented in Britain - the true horror of the situation is only now becoming clear.

"The collaboration between welfare charities to rescue these horses has been fantastic. Clearly there needs to be a full inquiry into the circumstances behind this case. We must use these terrible events to make sure this kind of carnage never happens again."

The British Horse Society condemns all mistreatment or neglect of horses and works tirelessly through a network of welfare officers to respond to reports of welfare concerns and provide education to horse-owners and the general public.

Inquiries into the treatment of the horses are continuing. A man believed to be at the centre of the investigation has been arrested for assault and criminal damage and is due to appear in court on Monday.



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