Covid-19 Equine Rescues Emergency Fund goes live!

Petplan Charitable Trust has joined together with World Horse Welfare and NEWC to create the fund to help smaller equine welfare organisations across the UK who are being significantly impacted by the current crisis.


Applications opened on Monday 11th May, and the deadline for the first round of applications is Friday 5th June 2020. The maximum grant will be £5,000 with average grants expected to be around £2,500.
Follow the link below for more information and to apply online 👇

Grants will be decided by a Committee comprising representatives from NEWC, the supporting charities and an independent member, with PPCT administering the fund.

All equine welfare organisations have experienced unprecedented financial and operational challenges as a result of the coronavirus crisis.  On top of looking after the animals in their care with very limited rehoming possible, they have had to close their centres to visitors, cancel fundraising events and see donations dry up during the ongoing crisis. This can be especially devastating for smaller charities.

Applicants need not be NEWC members, but rescue and rehoming of equines should be the primary focus of the organisation. If more applications are received than funds available, priority will be given to NEWC members and those smaller organisations that have not received emergency funding from other emergency funds (e.g. Support Adoption for Pets Emergency Fund).

Support for the Fund, which was set up at the end of last month with a commitment of £50,000 from Petplan Charitable Trust, has already raised a further £80,000 from the RSPCA (England & Wales), The Donkey Sanctuary, Redwings Horse Sanctuary, World Horse Welfare and the The British Horse Society.

David Simpson, Chair of PPCT, stated “The Petplan Charitable Trust has always supported the tremendous work horse rescues perform and we are delighted to work alongside others to help in these difficult times.”

Roly Owers, MRCVS, Chief Executive of World Horse Welfare said “The current situation, and the economic fallout from the pandemic, will just make a bad situation a whole lot worse. There is no capacity within the UK’s equine rescue system so it is vital, as we start to rehome animals again, that we have as many organisations as possible working to support the inevitable tidal wave of welfare cases that will need help over the course of this year.

“We are hugely grateful to our sister charities, including the RSPCA, The Donkey Sanctuary, Redwings and the BHS for supporting the Covid-19 Equine Rescues Emergency Fund and to the PPCT for agreeing to administer this vital safety net to smaller, but no less important, equine welfare organisations during this extraordinary time.”

DEFRA and The Scottish Government approve new guidelines for rehoming

Recent guidance, approved by the English and Scottish Governments, now means that companion animal organisations (including equines) can start to rehome to the public provided they follow certain measures to reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19.


This will allow vital space to be freed-up for animals in urgent need, however it is essential that the steps outlined in the guidance are followed to protect human and animal health and welfare.

The full guidance has been issued by the Canine and Feline Sector Group (CFSG) (full guidance) and The National Equine Welfare Council (NEWC) has produced a guidance document specifically to support equine rescue organisations (additional equine guidance) rehome responsibly during these unprecedented times.

Please note that application of the guidance in Wales is pending approval, so we advise our members operating in or travelling to/from Wales to check with their local government if unclear.

NEWC Coronavirus (Covid-19) Guidance

NEWC advises all its members to strictly adhere to the Government’s directive to stay at home unless it’s absolutely necessary to travel. Please keep your own health and safety in mind, as well as that of everyone around you.


It is still considered ‘essential’ to attend to the welfare of horses and other livestock, making your travel as an employee, owner or volunteer to provide care permissible under the current guidance.


We will share any information which becomes available from the Government as well as from the equine and allied sectors. To help you through these uncertain and rapidly-changing times, we’ve put together some guidance around looking after and managing horses under the current requirements. Please note, while the guidance is current at the point of publication, it may quickly be superseded following further government updates, or changes to the situation.

Triage of care – veterinary and farriery services are currently operating under a triage, or traffic-light, system in order to determine which cases require attendance in person or if a visit could be postponed. 

Please familiarise yourself with the current information provided in the links below:

FAQs – we have addressed below some of the concerns that might arise during these unprecedented circumstances:

Why can’t rescue centres admit equines at the moment?

All NEWC members and other responsible charities will already be assisting as many equines in need as possible, with the resources of money, people and facilities at their disposal. Limits on movement of people and therefore animals will force us to all do the minimum necessary to deal with only the most urgent welfare concerns. At the end of the initial period of the most extensive lockdown measures, charities will increase their capacity to respond and prioritise the most urgent cases until they can return to a normal level of service.

Why can’t I rehome a horse at the moment?

Following the Government’s stay at home advice and ban on non-essential travel, our member charities and rescue centres will be focusing their efforts on the welfare of the horses in their care.  Most charities are currently experiencing much reduced staff numbers and therefore are needing to prioritise their time to focus on the maintenance care of their horses on site. It is critical that employees are kept safe as well as the horses in their care and members of the public. Once the travel ban is lifted, some charities may be able to rehome on a case by case basis via their remote schemes, which will free-up much needed space for new admissions.

Why can’t charities provide financial help to owners?

Charities that are members of NEWC have been working at maximum capacity for the last few years (during what has become known as the equine crisis) and have saved money held in reserves as required by fundraising regulations, to ensure they can manage times of extreme financial challenge or as a last resort, to ensure the orderly winding down of a charity. These reserves will have suffered a decline in value alongside all other investments.

The charities are also likely to need to draw on these reserves to protect their staff and animals in the next weeks and months. Everyone is going to face difficult decisions and there will be limited funds to support other charities and individuals who are concerned about continuing to provide care for the animals they are responsible for. All the NEWC members will do their utmost to provide helpful guidance and direct owners to sources of further information; but it is unlikely that they will be able to admit animals, provide financial support or offer direct help in all but the most exceptional circumstances.

Can I still volunteer?

Following the government stay at home guidance and restrictions on non-essential travel, many of our members are having to adapt to the changing situation and put temporary measures in place, which may mean they are currently unable to recruit new volunteers due to restricted time and resources. Once the travel ban is lifted it is worth getting in touch with them if you are still keen to volunteer as your help and support may be very much appreciated.

Some smaller charities may rely on volunteers to care for the equines in their care. If this is the case, they should follow the Government’s guidelines with regards to social distancing and no one should volunteer if they are experiencing any symptoms of covid-19, or if they are classed as or live with a vulnerable person.

Why aren’t horses being rescued by the RSPCA? 

Each year charities such as the RSPCA answer more than a million calls from the public concerned about animals. The RSPCA is still rescuing horses from emergencies. The RSPCA have a team of frontline officers working around the clock across England and Wales to deal with emergency-only cases.

What is classed as an emergency by the RSPCA?

RSPCA inspectors are dealing with emergencies, which are classed as cases where: there is an immediate risk to life; the animal is critically injured or in imminent danger; or where the animal is likely to die in the near future without help. RSPCA officers will also deal with cases where animals have been abandoned and are not able to fend by themselves and the RSPCA will also be on hand to offer telephone advice and guidance where appropriate, or signpost to other charities and organisations that can help.

How can people help equine charities?

The NEWC member charities all rely on voluntary donations to fund all of their services. The biggest help people can provide for charities is through donating, to enable them to continue their vital support to equines in need. However, it is really important that people check that charities are reputable and that their support will provide the best possible benefit to animals. Naturally, we would ask that people support charities that are members of the National Equine Welfare Council, as this provides reassurance that they are genuine, and that they meet NEWC standards for animal care and governance. Be extra careful of supporting fundraising campaigns that are not operated through registered charities.

How can people help field officers?

Please only contact equine welfare charities in the event of an emergency. For everything else please look on charity websites as there is lots of information on there. We would ask those calling with emergencies to be patient as, despite contingency planning, charities have fewer people available to answer calls. The charities are also asking the public to be supportive by understanding that they cannot see as many cases as before; and if reporting a concern to a charity, please be patient and understanding if additional information is asked for to try and ensure we do get to the most needy animals first.

How can people help each other?

If you care for animals, follow the Government and NHS advice to be prepared if you have to go into isolation or hospital and have all the information ready and confirm that there are people willing and able to look after your animal’s essential needs.

Who can people contact for advice?

Because all the charities and equestrian organisations are running on skeleton staff, please don’t call, avoid unnecessary emails and first look at the links provided here and follow links to reputable organisations.

Many different questions and scenarios may arise during the coronavirus pandemic. There is a wealth of information and guidance available from the sources below:


Scottish Government

The British Horse Society

World Horse Welfare

The Donkey Sanctuary

Blue Cross

The British Equestrian Federation (1)

NEWC have also previously issued advice related to responsible rehoming, and for owners looking to cut costs while maintaining the care of their animals, both of which contain useful advice and information that may be of use during the current situation.

COVID-19 ‘Top Ten Guidelines for Farriers’

The COVID-19 ‘Top Ten Guidelines for Farriers’ has been produced by The Horse Trust in collaboration with The British Equine Veterinary Association, World Horse Welfare, University of Liverpool and British Farriers and Blacksmiths Association, to ensure the safety of farriers and their customers.

NEWC Annual General Meeting – Postponed

In light of the Covid-19 outbreak, the NEWC Annual General Meeting, which was due to be scheduled for the end of April 2020, will be postponed until further notice.


Although we are announcing the postponement with great disappointment, we strongly believe that it is the only reasonable decision in the present situation.


The NEWC Directors are currently considering the best course of action to take to meet the Council’s legal obligations to hold the Annual General Meeting whilst ensuring the well-being of all attendees.


We will keep you informed of any further developments.

Charities combine expertise to help horse owners cut costs not care

Member charities of the National Equine Welfare Council (NEWC) have collaborated to produce two practical guides; one to help horse owners find ways to cut costs without compromising on care and another on making the difficult decision to rehome a horse.

Equine charities are continuing to receive large numbers of calls from horse owners seeking alternative homes for their animals. There are over one million horses and donkeys in the UK and the charitable sector has limited space available and must prioritise welfare and rescue cases.

“Of course we want to be able to help every horse,” said Nic De Brauwere, Chairman of NEWC. “But with limited funds and resources available we have to prioritise on those in greatest need. By showing how outgoings can be reduced without compromising on the horse’s quality of life we aim to help owners in making the decision to keep their horse and help prevent inadvertent neglect or abandonment. Otherwise we can help them safely navigate the rehoming route.”

NEWC has produced two detailed guides, both of which can be downloaded below. In situations where owners are considering rehoming their horses because they can no longer afford to keep them the ‘Cut cost not care’ guide suggests where sufficient savings may be made to help them keep their horse without making any compromise on health or welfare.

If care costs are still too great and rehoming remains the only option NEWC’s ‘Rehome responsibly’ guide helps horse owners consider the options whether selling, loaning or retiring. Euthanasia is also discussed in cases where quality of life is diminishing and rehoming solutions are not appropriate.

“We hope the guides will provide support for horse owners who are facing tough decisions this winter, to help to keep more horses and ponies well cared for and secure.” Said Nic.

The guides can be downloaded here: Cut cost not care and Responsible re-homing

Joint NEWC statement regarding horse ‘rescues’

We are increasingly seeing instances where well-meaning animal lovers wrongly accuse charities over social media of failing to act, resulting in rising tensions and, in some cases, leading to people taking the law into their own hands to ‘rescue’ ponies and horses which they feel charities are ignoring.


The National Equine Welfare Council, comprised of 66 member organisations of which 35 are charities keeping equines, such as the RSPCA, World Horse Welfare, Redwings, Blue Cross, Bransby Horses, The Horse Trust, The Donkey Sanctuary and The British Horse Society who work tirelessly to protect horses across the country and for seven years have been facing an ‘equine crisis’ which has seen an unprecedented number of animals coming into their care (2295 admitted in 2018). It is estimated that there are currently 6870 horses in the care of rescue organisations, putting huge pressure on charities’ resources. We are all doing our best for horses in difficult circumstances.


In many cases, when issues are raised on social media, charities are already working, often together, to resolve the situation and improve welfare through existing animal welfare law. NEWC understands that it is frustrating when it appears well-known welfare organisations are not taking action and don’t share information about what they are doing, but there are very good reasons for this.


Charities have to be careful that anything they say doesn’t jeopardise future court cases, which could result in those who have caused suffering to animals escaping justice.


Charities must work within the law and have NO legal power to remove horses without an owner’s consent. Horses can only be removed under the Animal Welfare Act by police, local authority appointed inspectors or appointed staff from the APHA (In Scotland the SSPCA inspectors have these powers) and only with the approval of a veterinary surgeon. If the appointed veterinary surgeon does not approve removal the animals must, by law, remain in situ with attending charities then only able to monitor the situation.


To protect the integrity of any investigation, essential for successful legal action, removal of animals by an authorised Inspector is done on the advice of a vet who has carried out the necessary examinations. Failure to follow the correct procedure could result in staff and organisations being prosecuted for theft. These actions could also jeopardise any legal action to protect the animals, or result in animals having to be returned.


Charities are very restricted in what they can say publicly about individual cases due to strict data protection laws. These laws protect all UK citizens’ privacy as well as ensure that the legal process is fair, essential to securing a successful outcome. Breaching these laws could result in animal welfare charities incurring fines of several million pounds.


The Animal Welfare Acts are very effective at allowing animals to be protected from cruelty and neglect and helping animals that have already suffered. Where the laws need to be improved, we campaign to change them, as seen with the Control of Horses Act and sentencing changes in England and Scotland. If the law is used to its full potential we can also work with owners who are willing to make welfare improvements, but still have the ability to act if this doesn’t work. The aim of this approach is to help all animals in a situation and not just those we are able to remove.


Often charities are aware of welfare concerns and will be working with owners to resolve issues in the first instance, while being mindful that legal action may follow if welfare concerns persist. Please be assured that in many cases work is taking place behind the scenes, sometimes involving multiple charities, but they simply cannot speak publicly about it.


There have been instances recently where NEWC members have arranged for the police and a vet to attend with a view to removing a horse on welfare grounds, but find the horse has already been taken. Although such actions can be well-meaning, it can have the unfortunate consequence that the owner will not face justice and could go on to cause suffering to more horses.


Where horses do need urgent help, it is important that they are removed legally and put into specialist care. The chances for survival and a good life can often depend on how these animals are treated in the early days after rescue. Cases of further suffering and even death have been seen when horses were removed illegally.


Just like all animal lovers, we too are upset by terrible images and videos on social media, and there’s no doubt many need urgent attention. Be aware that some information on social media is not always true. Sadly some cases shown in pictures and videos are not accurately reported or are not from the case in question and achieve little more than causing upset and frustration.


Anyone with welfare concerns about horses should contact our members in the first instance. There’s a list of numbers to report welfare concerns to on our website. Encouraging people to ‘bombard’ charities on social media or tie up emergency phone lines reporting the same incident costs charities vital time and money which could be spent helping animals and also stops other emergencies being reported.


It’s great to see horse lovers’ passion and enthusiasm for helping equines. We share this, and do the best we can with limited resources- animal welfare charities receive no government funding. We’d encourage organisations and individuals interested in helping horses to become members of the National Equine Welfare Council – which is a great way of sharing expertise and working together to tackle the horse crisis and other equine welfare issues.


You could also help by giving a loving forever home to one of the over 2500 horses available for re-homing in the care of our member charities at the moment – which will free up a much needed rescue space for other horses who need urgent help.

National Equine Welfare Council C.I.C.

The National Equine Welfare Council C.I.C. works to protect horses, ponies, donkeys and mules, by providing support, guidance and a communication forum to equine organisations, businesses and charities to help raise equine welfare standards nationwide.