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ISPCA defends coverage of equine welfare problems

The ISPCA has moved to emphasize the scale of the equine welfare problems that it is facing in response to a statement from Horse Sport Ireland suggesting that coverage of the crisis was “overstated and unbalanced”.

Joe Collins, president of the Veterinary Council of Ireland and author of an in-depth study on horse welfare in Ireland, was widely quoted last year giving the estimated number of “surplus horses” in the country as 10,000 to 20,000. This was due to overproduction of poor or moderate quality animals and the resultant saturation of the market with virtually valueless animals.

While this figure referred to “surplus” animals, the number was picked up by the foreign media with some erroneously reporting that there are tens of thousands of equines wandering loose around the island of Ireland.

Conor Dowling, Chief Inspector with the ISPCA, said “While we would agree that some of the European reporting of our equine situation has been inaccurate and sensationalist, it would be a grave error to attempt to downplay the scale of the problem facing this country”.

The ISPCA has been attempting to highlight this escalating problem since 2008 during which time the number of calls made to the organisation’s National Animal Helpline has doubled year on year. The numbers of equines taken into care by the charity’s Inspectors has also increased drastically with nearly as many rescued in the first six weeks of 2011 as in the whole of 2010. Last year’s figure was, in turn, twice that of 2009.

While the society acknowledges that the numbers of animals being accommodated by charities does not compare with the enormous figures quoted in some reports it is keen to point out that the animals in rescue centres are only the very worst examples.

Mr. Dowling said “Due to the limitations of our charitable resources we must focus on those animals most in need. We are visiting equines in conditions we would not have tolerated a few years ago but are forced to leave them where they are as we do not have the finances, manpower or facilities to help them all”.

In addition to the dozens of equines taken into ISPCA facilities in the opening weeks of 2011, the society’s Inspectors have arranged the euthanasia of 12 others and have encountered in excess of 30 carcasses.

Chief Inspector Dowling does not agree with Horse Sport Ireland’s assertion that “a small number” of horses are neglected saying “our representatives are seeing equines all over the country that are not receiving the standard of care that they should. These may not be the type of horses with which the HSI is normally familiar but they are equines nonetheless”.

While recognising that it is inaccurate and unfair to attempt to blame any particular sector for the current problems, the ISPCA believes that all parts of the equine industry contributed in some way and should therefore all be involved in the solution.

The organisation’s staff are becoming increasingly frustrated with the pressures they are facing daily and their inability to help more animals. Mr. Dowling said “we are receiving criticism from the public for not doing more but there is no point in us expending all our resources this month and ceasing to operate next month. We need help in dealing with this crisis”.

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