Owner of eight neglected horses ‘cannot be prosecuted’

Animals discovered malnourished at Galway site devoid of microchips, five euthanised

The owner of eight horses found in a state of serious neglect and malnourishment in Galway cannot be prosecuted because they were not microchipped, the Department of Agriculture has confirmed.

Five of the eight animals rescued by a horse charity in conjunction with department officials in March had to be euthanised on welfare grounds and three are being rehabilitated.

What was described as a “significant number” of dead and malnourished animals were discovered at the site in Briarhill. The Hungry Horse Outside charity said the scene was “a nightmare of cruelty and neglect”.

The department said that while it would have wished to prosecute the owner for abandonment and cruelty, this was not possible “on account of lack of identification on the horses”.


“There were no microchips in any of the abandoned horses and no owner presented him/herself as owner of the horses.”

It said the issue of land ownership was being pursued by Galway County Council with a view to arranging for proper fencing.

Animal welfare charities and others have for years highlighted problems with the lack of microchipping of horses, even though it is mandatory.


In May 2014, then minister for agriculture Simon Coveney announced that he had signed into law new regulations concerning the identification and change of ownership of horses.

He said they would “ strengthen the powers of the Minister in relation to the seizure and detention of horses and documents”.

“They also include a provision for the issuing of compliance notices in situations where equine identification legislation is not being observed.”

By law, all equine animals must be identified and those identified on or after July 1st, 2009, must be issued with a “passport” and have a corresponding microchip implanted by a vet.

A central equine database was developed in 2013 to record all equine animal registration details on the department’s Animal Identification and Movement system.

Official veterinarians operating at slaughter plants use the database to supplement ante-mortem checks, prior to approving the slaughter of any animal for the food chain.