RSPCA braces itself for influx of sick and abandoned horses

The RSPCA says it’s bracing itself for an influx of sick and abandoned horses following the pandemic that will cripple resources, despite a new microchipping law coming into force.

During the lockdown period of 23 March to 8 September the RSPCA dealt with 68 incidents involving horses in Shropshire
During the lockdown period of 23 March to 8 September the RSPCA dealt with 68 incidents involving horses in Shropshire

As the microchipping of horses becomes compulsory in England, the RSPCA fears it will not be enough to prevent an impending horse welfare catastrophe – as the charity reveals that it dealt with 68 incidents involving horses in Shropshire during the Covid crisis.

As the charity launches its month-long rehoming drive, Adoptober, it reveals that nationally the number of horses in its care is already three times what it was at the start of the last recession in 2009, and said it is braced for huge numbers of abandoned and neglected horses as the country plunges into an even deeper financial downturn.

During the lockdown period of 23 March to 8 September alone, the RSPCA dealt with 4,479 incidents involving horses – including 68 in Shropshire.

Last year the charity rehomed 242 horses, but almost 760 remain in the charity’s care to date, desperately needing new homes.

At the time of the last recession, the RSPCA had 250 horses in its care in 2009, but following that downturn, numbers peaked at nearly 1,200 in 2013.

The RSPCA is expecting more horses to be abandoned or neglected as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic and the deepening recession and is urging people who are looking to take on a horse to think about adopting one from the charity.

Chris Sherwood, Chief Executive of the RSPCA said: “Equine charities fear that autumn will create the perfect storm as grazing decreases, the end of furlough and the deepening recession will see more owners struggling with costs of care leading to neglect and abandonment, yet people have been continuing to breed horses despite Covid.

“Alongside this, equine rescues, already reporting a sharp drop in funds, may start to go under as the financial situation bites, which will increase the burden on the RSPCA. We are calling on the Government to step in with financial support as they have for other charities affected by the pandemic and recognise that the vital services provided by the animal welfare sector are under huge strain.”

New legislation demanding compulsory microchipping of all horses irrespective of age is set to come into effect in England this month; currently around 70% of the horses we rescue are not microchipped.

Chris said: “When it came in for dogs, the number of strays reduced by 20% in four years, but unfortunately we just don’t think that’s going to happen for horses. Without rigorous enforcement and tough financial penalties, there is little to stop irresponsible horse owners continuing to breed and dump their animals.

“Local authorities, who are in charge of enforcement of equine identification regulations, are already operating with extremely limited resources and are facing the huge challenges of Covid, the recession and Brexit.

“The RSPCA and other equine welfare organisations have been struggling to pick up the pieces of the horse crisis since the last recession and as we enter what could be the biggest financial downturn of a generation, the sector is already bursting at the seams and facing unprecedented challenges due to the pandemic.”

The charity’s equine staff are appealing to experienced horse owners across England and Wales to consider rehoming a rescue horse if they possibly can. This month as the charity’s rehoming campaign Adoptober launches, staff are keen to showcase the versatility and capability of the horses they rescue, whether they are ridden horses, companion animals or youngsters with heaps of potential. 

Throughout the month of October, the RSPCA is shining a light on animals in its care which need a new home and promoting the benefits of adopting a rescue animal through its Adoptober campaign. The RSPCA is the UK’s biggest rehomer, finding 39,178 homes for pets last year – that’s 107 a day, or four an hour.

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