Horses at risk of death because club cannot get insurance

Clondalkin Equine Club warns animals at risk of starvation and disease if project doesn’t go ahead

Ross Aspill (16)  and his horse Cheeky Chappy in Clondalkin,  Dublin. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

Ross Aspill (16) and his horse Cheeky Chappy in Clondalkin, Dublin. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times


Stray horses in west Dublin would “inevitably” die of starvation, disease and lack of shelter this winter if a project aimed at addressing their welfare cannot get insurance, according to activists.

The newly-formed Clondalkin Equine Club has said its members cannot take rented possession of a piece of land they have identified for keeping their animals as they cannot get a quote for public liability insurance.

The club, which has the support of the Irish Horse Welfare Trust (IHWT) and of champion jockey Johnny Murtagh, has raised €3,000 towards insurance costs.

However, despite approaching a number of brokers and insurers, they have yet to be given a quote.

Hundreds of residents in the mainly working-class area own horses, but many have only unsuitable spaces in which to keep the animals, such as a back garden. Younger horse-lovers in particular will keep horses “wherever there’s a bit of grass”, says the club’s co-founder Tom Aspil.

“They’re putting horses on public land, the council is pounding them. The young people can’t afford to get them back so the council destroys them. It’s devastating for the young people and very expensive for the council. But the policy of pounding horses isn’t working and it’s a vicious circle.”

Figures provided by South Dublin County Council indicate that it last year seized 380 stray horses, of which 64 were returned to their owners on payment of fines of about €800, while 316 were “disposed of”.

Horses found dead
There are also serious animal welfare implications. In March, seven horses were found dead within days of each other in a field in the area, having been left with very little food, water or shelter.

The club has identified a 126-acre site at Clonburris Little for use. The site is in receivership and administered by Pames Asset Management.

John Pope, property manager with Pames, said: “We would be willing to accommodate the club but we can’t let them onto it without public liability insurance.”

A spokeswoman for the council confirmed it was “generally supportive” of the idea and would be available to provide support, “in terms of our expertise, information and contacts in the provision of training in horse riding, animal welfare and horse management skills. However . . . the council does not have funds to contribute.”

Cllr Gino Kenny (People Before Profit) believes the benefits to the council of the club succeeding would be significant.

“It’s a no-brainer. Everyone benefits – the horse-owners, the council and obviously, the horses. We just hope someone will help the club get the insurance. Otherwise it’s inevitable there will be more deaths this winter,” he said.

Among those hoping the club will succeed is Mr Aspil’s son Ross (16), who owns a thoroughbred trotting horse, which he keeps at stables some distance from his home in Bawnogue. “I would know he was safe and it would be nearer my home,” he says.