COUNTY RSPCA officers are facing an equine crisis after new figures reveal an ‘upsetting’ rise in calls about horse cruelty and neglect.
The charity’s new statistics, released today (April 24), reveal officers in Worcestershire received 235 complaints about 178 horses last year (2017).
In total the team investigated 1,632 complaints with concerns for the welfare of animals, compared to 1,596 in 2016.
Across the UK, nearly 1,000 horses were rescued by the charity from cruelty, suffering and neglect last year, and 928 horses are still in the charity’s care.
The 24-hour emergency line received more than 80 calls a day in 2017 and it took in the highest number of horses into its care for four years, at 980.
The national horse crisis, which charities first highlighted in 2012, has since seen RSPCA officers routinely called out to abandoned horses every day up and down the country, with many of them extremely sick, dead or dying on arrival.
It costs the RSPCA more than £3m per year to care for the horses, excluding veterinary costs.
Despite the efforts of the charity and other equine welfare organisations, the crisis shows no sign of easing, with huge pressures on the charity to find stables and funding to keep the large number of horses it has had to take in.
As soon as one horse is rehomed, another is waiting to immediately fill the stable and, as a consequence, the majority of horses taken in by the RSPCA have to be cared for in private boarding stables at further cost to the charity.
The RSPCA’s inspectorate national equine co-ordinator Christine McNeil said: “We’ve been talking about the horse crisis for several years now, but the truth is the situation is just as severe today as when it started.
“Up and down England and Wales, horses are being found sick, dying or sometimes dead and it is frequently the case that they have been abandoned and left for dead.
“This is upsettingly very common and it’s a massive issue – a very sad one at that.
“Many of the calls we receive from people who are concerned about a horse have found them being illegally fly-grazed – where horses are moved from place to place to eat the grass there, often without the permission of the landowner.
“We are also frequently called about tethered horses, where the animals are kept secured to a peg in the ground on unfenced land with a rope or chain.
“We do not agree with tethering but sadly there is nothing we can do as this practice remains legal.”
The latest RSPCA statistics feature in the charity’s Prosecutions Annual Report 2017.