More than 100 malnourished horses were seized from a property in Victoria state in Australia last week.
The rescue is the largest in the 145-year history of RSPCA Victoria.
The seizure was authorised by ministerial order under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (POCTAA) and involved four of Victoria’s horse rescue organisations.
The RSPCA had rescued 13 other horses from the same property in very poor condition two weeks earlier.
Pregnant mares with young foals were among the horses taken in. Only a few of the stallions and colts found had been gelded.
Many were very underweight with protruding hip bones and visible ribs and spines.
The majority were found to have a heavy worm burden.
The worst affected are being treated at a specialist equine hospital.
“Sadly, despite our best efforts, some of these horses may not survive the first month,” said Lisa Calleja, RSPCA Victoria inspector.
“Others may never be able to be rehabilitated or treated to the point where new homes can be found for them, and will have to be rehomed at a sanctuary or welfare organisation,” she added.
The cost of the rescue operation is estimated to be over $250,000.
“This is a hugely expensive operation,” said Calleja.
The charity is calling on the Australian community to help with the costs of rescuing, treating, feeding and rehabilitating the horses.
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Drought conditions in the state coupled with rising feed costs are being blamed for the increasing number of horses in poor condition being reported daily to the RSPCA.
“Whatever the weather or economic conditions, owners are directly responsible for ensuring that every animal in their care has the food, water, shelter and medical care they need to keep them safe and healthy,” sad Calleja.
RSPCA Victoria is “strongly advising” people to “destock if they are concerned about their capacity to provide good quality care.”