The RSPCA has seen a dramatic increase in the number of horse and pony rescues last year.

The number of horse and pony rescues undertaken by the animal welfare charity rose by 66 per cent in 2007. 0

The RSPCA rescued 770 equines last year — an increase of 307 from 2006, when the charity rescued 463.

But RSPCA spokesman Rebecca Ralph said the figures are not as alarming as first perceived.

“We think the jump is mainly due to the floods of last summer,” she said. “We employed a huge number of inspectors to flooded areas to assist in rescues of not only horses and ponies but farm animals, too.”

In total, the RSPCA rescued nearly 150,000 animals last year — and saw a 23 per cent increase in the number of animals abandoned by their owners.

Meanwhile, the International League for the Protection of Horses (ILPH) reports a marked increase in calls to its welfare hotline, it has not admitted a similarly higher number of horses to its rescue centres.

“It seems that the new improvement notices are proving very useful in encouraging owners to up their standards of care,” said deputy chief executive Tony Tyler.

The figures have been released at the start of RSPCA week (28 April – 4 May), the society’s largest annual fundraising and awareness week.

Throughout the week, RSPCA staff and volunteers are holding events to raise money — and holding collections in Tesco stores. To find out more visit www.rspcaweek.org.uk