Councils refunded €2m for stray horses


THE DEPARTMENT of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food paid more than €2.1 million last year to reimburse local authorities for expenses relating to the seizure and recovery of abandoned horses.

Over the last three years, the department has reimbursed more than €5.25 million to local authorities for costs relating to horse seizures; the total amount paid out, since 2007, has increased annually by about €400,000.

The problem of stray and abandoned horses is rapidly growing and figures for the first half of this year suggest a further increase in the number of animals recovered by some councils.

Under Section 15 of the Control of Horses Act 1996, the department is required to reimburse local authorities for costs connected to the recovery of abandoned horses. Figures obtained from the department, relating to payments made to reimburse local authorities, show contrasting amounts were reimbursed to different councils.

In 2008, for example, Limerick County Council was reimbursed €201,524, after recovering 54 horses. This figure was double the amount it received from the department in 2007, despite paying for the costs of 92 horses. Last year, some 133 horses were seized by the council, which was reimbursed €128,588, which, on average, amounted to more than €950 to care for one horse.

A spokesman for the council disputed the department’s figures and said its own accounts were calculated in arrears and showed that the costs reimbursed were relative to the expenses that had been paid out.

The department figures also showed that last year it reimbursed Clare County Council €121,931 in expenses related to the care of 22 horses, which averaged to about €5,500 for each animal.

In 2007, the council was reimbursed some €68,219 in expenses for six horses, which amounted to an average of €11,369 a horse.

This was three times more than the figure reimbursed to Dublin City Council, which seized hundreds of horses.

Last year alone, Dublin City Council was reimbursed €482,603 for expenses incurred in the care of 349 horses, which is the highest amount of horses seized by any local authority.

In both Clare and Limerick, the pound and seizure services are provided privately by Cork-based company Animal Care Society.

A spokesman for Clare council said there had been a contract in place with the company since at least 1994, but he could not disclose how much it cost to impound a single horse for one night.

A spokesman for Animal Care Society confirmed it had contracts with Clare and Limerick councils but would not discuss details of contracts for confidentiality reasons.

In its statement, the department said expenses reimbursed under the Control of Horses Act were not confined to the seizure of horses. It added that local authorities implementing the Act had adopted different approaches, with some placing a greater emphasis on prevention rather than reaction, in relation to the collection of abandoned horses.