Posted: Wed 30th Sep 2020

RSPCA launch ‘Adoptober’ amid fears that a possible recession will cause horse welfare catastrophe

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Sep 30th, 2020

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RSCPA Cymru has launched Adoptober, a month-long rehoming drive, amidst their Cymru division’s response to more than 500 equine welfare incidents since lockdown last March.

Across Wales and England, the number of horses in the RSPCA’s care is already three times what it was at the beginning of the 2009 economic downturn.

Their officers are subsequently bracing themselves for an influx of calls about abandoned and neglected horses as the country faces the prospect of an even deeper financial downturn.

Microchipping will become compulsory early next year, but the charity believes it will not be enough to tackle irresponsible breeders and owners.

This concern comes amid a fall in donations for many animal welfare organisations during the COVID-19 pandemic, with limited resources often stretched to capacity.

The majority of organisations are now reporting they only have enough funds left to survive for six months, with the RSPCA calling on the Welsh Government to provide specific financial support to the sector in order to help it through the pandemic.

Chris Sherwood, chief executive of the RSPCA, said: “New legislation demanding compulsory microchipping of all horses irrespective of age is set to come into effect in Wales early next year; currently around seventy per cent of the horses we rescue are not microchipped.

“When compulsory microchipping came in for dogs, the number of strays reduced by twenty per cent in four years, but unfortunately we just don’t think that’s going to happen for horses.

“Without rigorous enforcement and tough financial penalties, there is little to stop irresponsible horse owners continuing to breed and dump their animals.”

He added: “The RSPCA and other equine welfare organisations have been struggling to pick up the pieces of the horse crisis since the last recession and as we enter what could be the biggest financial downturn of a generation, the sector is already bursting at the seams and facing unprecedented challenges due to the pandemic.”

He continued: “We are calling on the Welsh Government to step in with specific financial support as they have for other charities affected by the pandemic and recognise that the vital services provided by the animal welfare sector are under huge strain.”

Nicolas de Brauwere MRCVS, Chair of the National Equine Welfare Council (NEWC), said: “The Animal Welfare Act is an excellent tool to support both prevention of equine suffering – and to intervene when this has already occurred.

“However, to be effective we need the owner of the horse to be identified – otherwise the only option for animal welfare charities is to treat the animal as abandoned, which incurs huge cost to organisations relying solely on donations from the general public to carry out their work.”

He added: “NEWC are very keen to launch conversations with them (local authorities) about how we can work together and support them in their bid to gain the capacity to do this work, so that we see the welfare improvement that these equine identification changes promise.”

On 28 July, the RSPCA worked with Redwings Horse Sanctuary, The British Horse Society and Caerphilly Council to help a pony found on Gelligaer Common.

The stallion, who was not microchipped, was struggling with an untreated abscess, and went into the care of the RSPCA for urgent treatment.

Christine McNeil, RSPCA inspector, said: “This skewbald stallion has a very nasty untreated abscess in his hoof, which required urgent attention.

“Safely taking this stallion from Gelligaer Common was a complex, multi-agency operation, and we’re grateful to Redwings, the British Horse Society and Caerphilly Council for their support.

“If anyone has any information about this pony, we’d still urge them to contact us on 0300 123 8018.”

The stallion, now named Howell, was offered a spot at Redwings Sanctuary in Norfolk and the process to legally transfer his ownership to the centre from the local authority is ongoing.

However, many other equines continue to search for a new home after escaping neglect or mistreatment.

Throughout October the RSPCA is shining a light on animals in its care which need a new home and promoting the benefits of adopting a rescue animal through its Adoptober campaign.

Under current COVID rehoming protocols anyone interested in fostering or adopting an animal from the RSPCA should visit the charity’s website to see which animals are available and should check with their local centre for the current process applicable in that area.

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