Up to 70 horses have been impounded following a crackdown on animal welfare in Cork city.
Officials from the Department of Agriculture, gardai and council chiefs seized the animals during a multi-agency operation in an area known as Holly Hill.
The impounded horses will not be released unless the owner can provide proof that they have a passport, have paid the appropriate fees and have access to lands registered under the equine regulations.
More than 3,000 horses have been seized throughout the country so far this year, with almost 250 of them in the Cork area.
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said the horses were seized today as part of the major animal welfare initiative.
“There have been particular problems with horses in the Cork city areas of Gurranabraher, Holly Hill, Knocknaheeny and Nash’s Boreen, with incidents of dead horses found on sites and stray horses on public roads causing risk to public etc,” said Mr Coveney.
“There are significant numbers of horses grazing illegally on Nama and local authority owned land in the north Cork city area.”
His department said that contrary to the legislation introduced by the minister last year, the site is not registered as an equine premises, and there were serious concerns about the welfare of the horses.
“The background to the operation is that there have been ongoing welfare concerns in relation to the horse sector over the past 12 months arising from the over-production of horses and the presence of unidentified horses on both public and private lands,” Mr Coveney added.
The minister said that his department and Cork City Council have been working to prevent the emergence of a welfare problem over coming months and had decided to take this action, which is aimed at removing the horses, evaluating their welfare and checking on their identification.
He called on all horse owners to comply with legislation on horse welfare, identification and the registration of equine premises.
Mr Coveney said officials in his department will continue to deal with any animal welfare issues relating to horses through existing mechanisms, adding that emergency funding can be provided to assist horse owners who cannot afford to pay for their humane disposal.
“Owners who are facing a critical horse welfare issue over coming months can contact the department helpline for assistance,” he added.