The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA) has called for a ban on sulky racing in Ireland.
Sulky racing is a popular pastime in the traveller community. Horses are harnessed to lightweight traps and trotted in races at official tracks and in illegal races on public roads.
The ISPCA does not oppose the official races, but wants more action taken over sulkies being raced on the roads.
Barbara Bent, chairman of the ISPCA, said: “The lives of innocent road users and those involved in sulky road racing – some as young as 10 years old – are at grave risk if this activity, which is motivated by gambling, is permitted to keep going.
“We maintain that a serious accident, injury or fatality is imminent, she added.”
In May, footage of young men racing ponies and traps along the N20 Cork-Mallow road went viral on the internet.
The drivers could be seen weaving in and out of heavy oncoming traffic on the road, with police vehicles in pursuit.
The men involved were arrested but were not charged with any offence.
“The welfare of animals used to engage in this practice is blatantly ignored,” said Ms Bent, who added that the ISPCA regularly treats horses and ponies abandoned and injured from road racing.
“Driving young horses or ponies flat out at high speed on busy roads and motorways is not only dangerous, but is also blatant animal abuse.
“Severe damage to joints at such a young age can leave the animal in chronic pain, with permanent immobility.”
A spokesman for Cork City Council and County Council said it was working with the gardai to investigate whether by-laws can be tightened up to stop the racers.
This news story was first published in the current issue of H&H (13 September 2012)