Irish authorities are urging the government to regulate the Smithfield Horse Fair in inner-city Dublin, following violent outbreaks at this month’s sale.

Two men were shot and third injured with a slash hook at the mart on 6 March.

The Irish Horse Welfare Trust (IHWT), Dublin City Council and the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA) are calling for a basic code of practice and regulations for horse traders, as well as a new, more suitable venue for the Smithfield Horse Fair.

IHWT director Sharon Newsome said: “While the market is a tradition, the suitability of the venue — where tourists and children mix so closely with animals that are in many cases stressed or unhandled — is highly inappropriate.”

The DSPCA’s Orla Aungier said the fair is “unlicensed and unregulated”. She said she was at the March mart when the violence erupted and had to cling to railings. She was wearing a bulletproof jacket as a precaution.

“Horses are being sold to children, there are no vets, no traceability, no accountability,” she said.

“Horses with strangles and ringworm are being sold. They end up in housing estates and front gardens and we pick up the welfare problem.”

The issues of Dublin’s horse population were highlighted by H&H last year (news feature, 19 August).

Traders say that closing Smithfield will be destroying history. Smithfield has been a marketplace since the 1700s, but was redeveloped in 2002 as a cobbled residential square with glass-fronted shops, flats, a tramline and stainless steel furniture (news, 9 April 2009).

According to council regulations it cannot be closed without an alternative venue being found.

“We’re meeting with the government to see how the legislation can be amended,” said Ms Aungier.

This news story was first published in the current issue of Horse & Hound (31 March, 2011)