Prosecutors alerted as horses’ mystery deaths remain unsolved

Italian prosecutors are now investigating the deaths of nine horses at a sanctuary in Tuscany, as no answers have yet been found as to the cause, despite the best efforts of the sanctuary team.

H&H reported last month that Italian Horse Protection Onlus (IHP) had contacted experts over the deaths, of horses who had seemed in perfect health minutes before they died. 

Results of a post-mortem exam on the ninth horse, who died on 21 February, were released on 18 March but showed no clear cause of such a sudden death, with no previous symptoms.

Tests for “numerous” toxic substances also proved negative, and analysis of hay showed nothing to cause alarm.

A laboratory in Pisa is testing samples from the other eight horses, who died within days of the charity’s move to its current home at the end of last year.

At a meeting of local health officials, it was considered “necessary and urgent” to alert the regional environmental protection agency to establish whether or not any contamination was present, and more tests were ordered, including of samples from other horses, hay feed and water at the sanctuary.

But no answers have been received from any of the bodies involved.

“This is an unacceptable situation”, said IHP president Sonny Richichi.

“It leaves us both perplexed and bewildered, especially when we read in the local press that the authorities are thinking of closing the investigation.

“For this reason we have decided that, in addition to writing the nth request for information to the local health authorities, we have decided to present a detailed complaint to the Pisa prosecutor’s office (who has already opened a file on this case of the mysterious death of the horses) detailing the facts of this affair, reconstructing step by step what has been witnessed by many who were physically present, or who have furnished us with relevant information.”

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He continues: “We can never accept that the death of these horses, whose demise has been cleared of any deliberate poisoning by the authorities themselves, should be dismissed without explanation.”

Mr Richici said the charity has set up “crisis management” for its remaining horses, about 50 of them, as staff are afraid to let them on to the fields.

“This situation is draining all our resources, with heavy consequences for the association,” he added.

“Our work is to report mistreatment, investigate illegal goings-on which exploit horses, to rescue equids who are suffering appalling conditions – work IHP has been carrying out for over 10 years in all of Italy. We are now seriously limited by not knowing what has killed our horses, and could kill more. We are waiting for concrete answers.”

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