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Sick foal found in owner’s living room highlights issues of buying and selling unseen

The case of a sick foal found living in his new owner’s house has highlighted the pitfalls of buying horses unseen, and why sellers have a responsibility to ensure new homes are suitable.

Humphrey changed hands for £250, from an online ad, and was delivered to the buyer’s home, on a housing estate in Southampton.

The foal lived in the garage and garden, and spent time in the living room, for two days, until his plight was reported to World Horse Welfare.

“When the owners were made aware of what was needed to properly care for the foal, they were very keen to help little Humphrey and signed him over into the charity’s care,” said a World Horse Welfare spokesman.

“His owners were also very keen that others are made aware of the online pitfalls they, unwittingly, had fallen into.”

Charity field officer Penny Baker found that as well as living in entirely unsuitable conditions, Humphrey was ‘significantly” underweight, with discharge from his eyes and nose.

“The new owners said they had bought Humphrey unseen and admitted that they didn’t realise what looking after a horse fully entailed but were concerned that he had been sold when not in good health,” the spokesman said.

“The seller had made no attempt to find out what living arrangements the foal would have, simply delivering him to their housing estate home.”

Humphrey was taken to World Horse Welfare’s Glenda Spooner Rescue and Rehoming Centre in Somerset, where he has “buddied up” with another horse, and will have the care he needs until he is old enough to be rehomed.

“World Horse Welfare normally advises that anyone looking to buy a horse or pony should do background checks, ask questions, meet the owner and ensure that the animal is viewed in person although the charity acknowledges that many horses are bought unseen, often without issue,” the spokesman said.

Ms Baker said some sellers have seized the opportunity provided by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are now increasingly seeing equines being sold to vulnerable buyers who lack the knowledge, finances and direction on how a horse or pony should correctly be kept,” she said.

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“It is all too easy for unscrupulous sellers to take advantage of these people, selling horses and ponies with no thought to their moral responsibilities.

“During the country’s initial lockdown, we saw sellers use the virus as a genuine reason why a horse or pony couldn’t be viewed in person, but even when restrictions eased it appears that some sellers are exploiting the virus, selling horses to unsuspecting customers who are not able to fully test-ride or view the animal before parting with their money.”

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