‘This equine crisis is heartbreaking’: 49 horses found dead or dying to date in 2017

  • The 49 dumped dying or dead horses found this year are “just the tip of the iceberg” in a growing equine crisis.

    *Warning: report contains upsetting images below*

    Among those abandoned was an emaciated filly who was found dead in a Shropshire village on 18 February.

    The following day (19 February) a dead horse was found in a dyke in Stapleford, Nottinghamshire.

    On 20 February a dying pregnant mare was dumped on the roadside in Orsett, Essex. RSPCA officers arrived to find her already dead.

    In neighbouring county Kent, a horse was found dead on a country road in Dartford on 21 February, by a dog walker who said this was latest in a spate of horses being found dead or injured in the area.

    Two days later (23 February), a foal and a pony were found left for dead in the middle of a storm in Warrington, Cheshire. The RSPCA was called and unfortunately it was decided they could not be saved and both were put down.

    Several horses were also found dumped in January.

    Three days into the new year a mare was found having died while she was giving birth. A dog-walker came across the body in the Calverton area of Nottinghamshire.

    Days later (7 January) the body of an emaciated horse was found “dumped like rubbish” by the side of the road in West Hanningfield, Essex.

    On 13 January, the body of a horse was found on a bridleway in Five Oak Green, Kent.

    A piebald horse was put down on 21 January after she was left for dead in freezing conditions with her hind legs tied to a fence in a field in Skeffington, Leicester. A vet and the RSPCA were called, but she had to be put down due to her condition.

    Kent crisis

    A number of additional horses and ponies were abandoned in Kent.

    The RSPCA has said it is “increasingly concerned” about the “equine crisis” in the county.

    Over the past few months the charity’s officers have been called to more than 38 cases of dumped dead and dying horses in Kent.

    The equines were left in terrible conditions by the side of roads and in woodland, as well as left under fly-tipped debris “as if they were rubbish”.

    Of these horses, 13 horses were already dead, and 25 were collapsed and dying.

    A further six were in such a poor state that “nothing could be done to save them”.

    19 were able to be rescued, cared for and treated.

    “The equine crisis in Kent has been horrendous over the past couple of months and doesn’t feel like it is slowing down,” RSPCA inspector Rosie Russon said.

    “I have been called out again and again to horses who are either already dead, or they are so neglected and unwell it is just too late to save them.

    “The issue is particularly noticeable between November and spring because of winter-related problems like the lack of grazing, redworm and cold weather pushing animals who are already ill over the edge.

    “These issues should be easily treatable, but instead of being given the care they need, the horses are just being neglected and then dumped to die.

    “Horses can be very expensive to keep and we believe some people decide to callously abandon their poorly horses instead of pay for veterinary treatment.

    “We urge owners who are struggling to care for their horses are urged to contact the RSPCA or other horse welfare charities for advice and assistance rather than dump their animals in a dying state.”

    Cases in the county

    Among the cases the RSPCA has been called to recently in Kent are:

    • A dead horse in Bull Hill, Horton Kirby, Dartford, on 21 February
    • The bodies of two horses on Beech Road, Kingshill in West Malling on 17 February
    • A dead horse tied to a tree by the church in Lamberhurst, Tunbridge Wells, on 17 February
    • Six dying horses in the Dartford area on 16 February
    • A skewbald mare and her foal in Wouldham Road, Rochester, on 16 February. Both were emaciated and weak. The filly is still in RSPCA care, but sadly the mare died a few days later
    • A dead piebald horse on the side of the road in Eglantine, Horton Kirby, on 14 February
    • A young piebald pony (pictured above) collapsed and dying in Yalding, Maidstone, on 28 January. Sadly she had to be put down to end her suffering
    • The body of a horse (pictured above) underneath a pile of planks of wood in a field in Horton Kirby, Dartford on 2 January – next to a can of petrol. “We assume that the intention may have been to set the body on fire,” said an RSPCA spokesman. “A few days later six more horses were rescued from the same location – all still in our care.”
    • A dead pony (pictured above) on a woodland path in Wateringbury, Maidstone, in the first week of January.

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    “The incidents we know about are probably the tip of the iceberg, and there are probably an awful lot more cases of dead and dying horses which we aren’t told about — who are removed by the police or other agencies, or perhaps rescued by other charities,” added Ms Russon.

    “This equine crisis is heartbreaking for us all. We do all we can to rescue animals when we can but often by the time we are called about them it is too late and the horses are already in far too poorly a state for us to be able to help them.

    “We will always look into cases of animal welfare reported to us, and do all we can to protect the welfare of the animals involved, but we rely on the public to be our eyes and ears in these situations as we can only investigate when we have information and evidence about who may have dumped an animal.

    “Equally, it is important for people to remember we are a charity and have to act within the law. We do not have legal powers to remove an animal who belongs to someone, even when they have been left to fly-graze, and it is only the police who can take them and place them into our care when a vet has said there is there is evidence they are suffering.”

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