How many more horses have to die? Heartbreak as pony put down after new year’s fireworks

  • The owner of a pony who died as a result of New Year’s Eve fireworks that were “like a war zone” has asked how many more deaths there have to be before the law is changed.

    Sam Parsons’ 25-year-old gelding Murphy, who should have been enjoying a happy retirement, had to be put down on 1 January.

    “He came to me to retire; to have a happy life in his field with my mare, until the time was right, and he did, until New Year’s Eve,” Sam told H&H. “He was the sweetest pony in the world.”

    Sam said there are organised fireworks displays in the two villages near her rural home but neither is close enough to cause problems, and warnings of both are given in advance.

    “But on New Year’s Eve, we were surrounded by them,” she said. “It’s no exaggeration to say we were surrounded by fireworks. I’ve never seen anything like it, it was like being in a war zone.”

    Sam went to check the horses and found Murphy was down.

    “You could see by the marks in the mud, he’d been down some time; he’d been trying to get up but couldn’t,” she said. “From the marks in the field and his hair on the fence, he’d gone through the electric fencing and into another fence. He had arthritis and the most he could manage was a slow trot for his dinner so the fact he’d been haring around like that shows how bad it was.”

    Efforts to get Murphy to his feet failed, and getting a vet proved equally frustrating.

    “It was like he’d just given up; he was exhausted,” Sam said. “All the vets we called said they were inundated, with colics and injured horses for the same reason, and they were all saying it would be a four-hour wait; the fact several of them told us that speaks for itself.”

    Eventually, Sam found a vet who could arrive sooner but there was nothing that could be done.

    “There was no coming back from that so he was put to sleep then and there,” Sam said. “It was absolutely horrific.”

    Sam is now trying to make as much noise as possible, with the backing of her MP Andrew Selous, who arranged an interview with himself and Sam on local BBC radio, and, Sam said, intends to address both the parish council and parliament on the issue.

    “He’s been fantastic,” she said. “He’s going to bring up the number of deaths caused by fireworks, which is relentless, on my behalf and [that of Joanna Barnett, whose Connemara Tallulah also died as a result of fireworks].

    “He was talking about tougher by-laws for rural communities; it was discussed in parliament in 2019 and they were told to go and get more evidence, so I hope this is the time to say ‘This is still happening’. How many horses have to die before something changes?”

    Sam added that a 32-year-old pony belonging to a neighbour of hers also ran through a fence in panic on New Year’s Eve, and was injured. Spent firework casings landed on kennels at a dog rehoming facility nearby.

    “There shouldn’t be fireworks around here, even under current legislation,” she said. “But they’re so accessible to buy and there’s no policing; if you say to police ‘This has happened’ they ask who’s let them off but no one knows; there’s no justice and no way to hold someone accountable. The more we can shout about this, the better. Something’s got to give.”

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