Behind the News: Gillian Bird of the DSPCA

Neglected horses are a bigger problem than abandoned puppies this January

Photograph: DSPCA

Photograph: DSPCA

 

The Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals co-ordinated almost 50 callouts this week to check on reports of neglected horses. “We saw up to 200 horses in total,” says Gillian Bird, a humane-education specialist at the charity.

Bird is one of a team that receives and monitors calls from the public about neglected animals. She says neglected horses are much more of a concern this January than abandoned puppies. “There are horses all over the city, on greens in housing estates, in front gardens and common areas where they shouldn’t be kept. Our major concern is the horses’ welfare. They can be stolen, joyridden or treated cruelly, and they are a risk to young children and traffic,” she says.

As well as not being kept in “equine approved” fields, which help prevent the spread of disease, many of these horses and ponies lack their mandatory passport.

The DSPCA recently launched a Snip and Chip campaign to neuter stallions and register the owners’ details on the horses’ passports. Wwners must pay €100 upfront before the procedure is carried out.

“There is a lot of trust required for this campaign to work. The progress is slow and based mainly on word of mouth,” says Bird.

The incentive for horse owners is that, once they have been snipped and chipped, the stallions are less likely to wander and get injured. The incentive for horse-welfare officers is control of the numbers of horses and to prevent inbreeding, which leads to disease.

Bird says the key role of the DSPCA is the horses’ welfare. “We don’t round up horses and remove them. That’s the job of the councils. We go into schools and talk to early school-leavers in these areas about responsible horse ownership. We aren’t against them having horses, but there are costs involved in owning them.”

The DSPCA is concerned that horses are being traded online for less than the price of a second-hand mobile phone. “The financial value of horses has gone down, and the problem is that some owners don’t know how to look after them properly,” says Bird. “Horses can’t survive on just grass at this time of the year.”

If you have concerns about any animal, you can fill in a suspected-cruelty report at dspca.ie or leave a message at 01-4994727

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