Local authorities spent €5 million dealing with the problem of abandoned horses in 2011 and 2012, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has told Reform Alliance Senator Fidelma Healy Eames in response to a parliamentary question.
He said county and city councils spent €2,704,630 in 2011 and €2,199,118 in 2012 on the control and welfare of stray or abandoned horses.
These costs include the impounding of stray or abandoned animals and their disposal if unclaimed. However, the total costs could be higher as no figures were provided for four council areas and only one year's costs were available for two others.
Limerick City Council spent the most on dealing with unwanted horses – more than €307,000 last year and €361,000 in 2011.
Dublin City Council spent more than €237,000 last year and €391,000 in 2011.
Ms Healy Eames said Galway County Council officials told her it cost them €824 to dispose of a horse “and so far this year they have costs accruing of €217,000 odd”.
She said she would be calling on Mr Coveney to introduce a mandatory blood test for horses which would save the State millions of euro in the disposal of abandoned horses.
If an owner does not get a passport for a horse before it reaches five months, when the horse eventually gets a passport it is stamped “not fit for human consumption” in case the horse has received medicine such as bute, which is not recommended for human consumption.
Ms Healy Eames said testing the horse carcass in meat factories was the sensible solution to a growing problem.
"When the horse is slaughtered the carcass should be sampled and laboratory analysed by a department vet as we did in the past during the BSE crisis with cattle. The cost of the sampling should be borne by the owner and on receipt of an all-clear result the owner should then be paid for his horse by the factory."
She said if the test was clear then the animal would be of value to the economy in the form of horse meat exports.