Gardaí investigate horse fatality in Cork housing estate

Officers review reports that horse involved in sulky racing when it collapsed and died

Gardaí have begun door-to-door inquiries and are checking CCTV footage in an attempt to discover who owns a horse found dead on a roadway in a Cork city housing estate.

Investigating officers confirmed they are reviewing reports that the horse was involved in sulky racing when it collapsed and died on the roadway at Hawthorn Mews on Dublin Hill on Cork's Northside.

Gardaí have appealed to anyone who may have witnessed the incident, which happened between 5pm and 6pm on Tuesday, or knows who was racing the animal to contact them in confidence.

“This is a very distressing incident and we understand a lot of children would have been around at the time and may have come upon the poor animal as it lay dying on the road,” said a Garda source. “We are certainly treating it very seriously and want to hear from anyone who can help us investigate what is a truly an appalling and shocking case of animal cruelty.”


Gardaí will investigate the matter fully and submit a file to the DPP who could recommend prosecution for failing to properly dispose of a dead animal properly as well as for animal cruelty.

ISPCA inspector Lisa O'Donovan echoed the Garda call for anyone with information to contact gardaí in confidence. She said whoever left the horse in such a condition should be ashamed of themselves.

“What happened to this poor horse was absolutely disgraceful – the most pressing issue here is to find who is responsible because somebody knows who owns this horse and treated it this way.

“There is a requirement to have horses microchipped and identifiable but my experience dealing with horses like this is that they never have any identification so the owner is difficult to trace

“It’s very rare that you will be able to trace the owner which isn’t the way the system is supposed to work but it’s not difficult to guess how compliant with legislation the people who did this will be.”

Sulky racing

Ms O’Donovan said that sometimes what can happen in sulky racing is that horses can be pushed beyond their limits and they can get a heart attack particularly if being raced on busy road.

“I would suspect it was heart failure but that would only hazarding a guess - if you are running and you feel you are going to collapse, you can stop but this poor animal wasn’t allowed do that.”

Local Cork North Central Fianna Fáil TD Billy Kelleher condemned whoever was responsible and said he too had heard reports that the animal was involved in sulky racing when it collapsed and died.

“When I heard about this case and saw the photos, my stomach churned. The wilful abuse of animals is something that I think most decent people would just not tolerate,” said Mr Kelleher.

"The owners of this horse should hang their heads in shame . . . and I would urge Cork City Council to do whatever is necessary to ensure it never happens again."

Gardaí and Cork City Council officials should be given greater resources to enforce existing bylaws and if new bylaws are needed, then they should be enacted by Cork City Council, he said.

“There is a balance to be struck between allowing the sulky racing tradition to continue and ensuring that best practice in terms of animal welfare is followed,” he added.

“For my own part, I think a new licensing system is needed for anyone who wants to own horses for the purpose of sulky racing. No horse should be without a registered and licensed owner.”

Anyone with any information about what happened the horse is asked to contact either Mayfield Garda station on 021-4558510 or Watercourse Road Garda station on 021-4558260 in confidence.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times