A new animal welfare law banning horses from working in the country’s cities is to be passed in Columbia, but animal protectionists fear that, while this will reduce mistreatment of working horses (“zorras”), many will be abandoned when the law comes into effect on 7 November.

The World Society of the Protection of Animals (WSPA), which runs a rescue centre in the country’s capital, Bogot , is concerned that an overload of rejected horses will put a strain on their funds and capacity.

Adriana Nunez of WSPA South America, said: “The law is a positive step in animal welfare, but it also means the number of horses requiring our attention is set to grow.”

The WSPA centre is the only public-sector equine clinic in Colombia and is run by three permanent staff and several volunteers. It currently costs almost £9,000 a year to provide food and medicine for its patients, who are free to roam in spacious paddocks.

Its fully equipped hospital ensures that horses receive the best care possible, while staff work with local communities to teach owners of zorras how to care for their animals and, in some cases, horses can be returned to their owners after treatment.

Debra Ashton of the WSPA said: “We want the Colombians to know that they can bring horses to the centre but we need support and funding to cope with the expected large numbers of unwanted animals.”

Despite the WSPA’s concerns, the law – jointly implemented by the government and the ministry of transport – is widely considered to be an important breakthrough for equine welfare in the country.

To find out more about the WSPA’s work including its centre in Bogota visit www.wspa.org.uk

Read the full story in this week’s Horse & Hound (6 March), or click here to subscribe and enjoy Horse & Hound delivered to your door every week.