Crisis point: numbers of RSPCA rescue horses reaches four-year high

The charity’s new cruelty statistics reveal that nearly 1,000 horses were rescued by the charity from cruelty, suffering and neglect last year (2017), and a staggering 928 horses are currently in the charity’s care.

The national horse crisis, which charities first highlighted in 2012, has since seen RSPCA officers called out to neglected and abandoned horses every day in England and Wales, with many of the animals extremely sick or dying.

The RSPCA’s latest figures show the horrifying impact of the crisis:
• The charity’s 24-hour emergency line received more than 80 calls a day about horses in 2017
• In 2017, the charity took in the highest number of horses into its care for four years (980)*
• The charity currently has 928 horses in its care
• Last year the RSPCA secured 25% more convictions for equine offences than two years ago**
• It costs the RSPCA more than £3m per year to care for the horses, excluding veterinary costs.

Despite the efforts of the RSPCA and other equine welfare organisations, the crisis shows no sign of easing, with huge pressures on the charity to find stables and funding to care for the large number of horses it has had to take in. As soon as one horse is rehomed, another is waiting to immediately fill the stable and, as a consequence, the majority of horses taken in by the RSPCA have to be cared for in private boarding stables at further cost to the charity.

The RSPCA’s inspectorate national equine co-ordinator Christine McNeil said: “We’ve been talking about the horse crisis for several years now, but the truth is the situation is just as severe today as when it started. Last year (2017) we took in more horses than we have in any of the past four years, and with our inspectors being called to rescue more and more every week, we are stretched to the limits.

“Up and down England and Wales, horses are being found sick, or dumped liked rubbish, dying or dead. Distressingly, this is common and it’s a huge issue. We are constantly receiving calls to our cruelty line – on average 80 per day about horses alone – as well as messages every day on social media from very concerned and upset people asking for our help.”

The impact of the recession, over breeding, the high costs of vet bills, the rising cost of hay and falling prices for horses have all contributed to the crisis.

The victims of this crisis include young horses like Adie (pictured here), who was was left for dead on New Year’s Eve. Like many other abandoned horses, he was not microchipped, and his owners were never traced.

Poor Adie was found collapsed in the mud at the brink of death. Just skin and bone, inspectors fear his owner felt the sickly youngster was not worth the cost of treating him, and this was the reason he was dumped and left to die in the field.

Thankfully for Adie, he was spotted by a walker who called the RSPCA immediately to help, and he is now slowly recovering in the care of one of the charity’s private boarding stables. Sadly, as Adie was not microchipped, the charity was unable to trace his owners.

However, now a new central equine database managed by DEFRA is in operation, making it easier for officials to identify horses and their owners. A new enforcement system is also planned this year in England with fixed penalty notices to be given by local authorities to owners with any horse under nine years old that does not have a passport or microchip. The RSPCA hopes this initiative will encourage responsible horse ownership.

It’s not uncommon for the charity to receive calls about fly grazed horses – animals left to illegally graze on land without the owner’s permission. However, since the introduction of the Control of Horses Act*, landowners and local authorities in England and Welsh local authorities are now able to manage these animals, leaving the RSPCA to focus on sick and injured horses.

The RSPCA’s cruelty stats released today (24 April), reveal the charity received 1,037,435 calls to its 24-hour cruelty hotline, investigated 141,760 complaints and issued 76,460 advice and improvement notices. The charity received the highest number of calls about dogs (189,095 calls), with cats coming in second (163,008 calls).

Last year the RSPCA once again dealt with shocking cases of horrific cruelty and neglect, securing 1,492 convictions under the Animal Welfare Act. Some of these cases included a dying dog found with a nail in his head, a hamster that was fed drugs and a crow that was set on fire.

To report any animal in need of help, you can call our cruelty line on 0300 1234 999 or to support us to help rehome, rescue and rehabilitate more animals visit www.rspca.org.uk/suffering

*Number of horses the RSPCA rescued and took into its care:
2017 – 980
2016 – 949
2015 – 673
2014 – 933

**Number of convictions secured relating to horses by year:
2017- 225
2016-215
2015-180