Local authorities are spending tens of thousands of euro covering the cost of rounding up stray horses, with Limerick City Council paying out €550,000 in the past 18 months.
Figures provided by county and city councils in some of the country’s busiest urban areas have shown an increase in the number of stray animals, with seizure of other stray animals such as dogs adding to the cost.
The figures show a divergence in the costs to local authorities. For example, while it cost Dublin City Council €250,582 last year for pound and seizure services for 342 horses, in Cork City, 123 horses were impounded at a cost of €23,911.
The expenditure peaked in Limerick City, where the local authority has impounded 149 horses to date in 2012, to add to the 260 last year. The overall expenditure for impounding the animals is more than €550,000, although the council said the money was recouped from the owners and the Department of Agriculture.
In addition, Limerick City seized 223 dogs last year, while another 97 were surrendered, with the costs of the dog pound coming in at almost €67,000.
John Nolan, a senior executive engineer with the Environmental Services and Planning unit in Waterford City Council, said: “It is difficult to compare annual costs as different policies may be adopted year to year, in our case we employed a part-time horse warden for 10 weeks in 2011 and our policy included amnesty days with veterinary care, so costs are not necessarily proportional to number of animals impounded.
“Also, costs can fluctuate based on reclaiming rates as the owners pay all charges in those cases. It is not possible to break out the cost associated with ‘recovery’ alone, there are so many aspects to horse control, a lot of the animals are taken in from the roads either by guards, our staff or owners before the impoundment service can arrive.”
Noel Griffin, chief executive of the ISPCA, said the issue of stray horses was unlikely to ease in the coming years after a boom in births in recent years due to “irresponsible ownership”.
Mr Griffin said impounding horses was a more costly process than for cats or dogs because they were harder to move on and required more space and food.
He also said that putting horses to sleep may need to be required more in future, claiming: “As shameful as it is, it is part of the answer.”
The local authorities are also having to deal with the issue of abandoned motor vehicles, although the expenditure on this is far below that of stray horses.
For example, Fingal has received notification of 276 abandoned or burnt-out cars in the past 18 months, but said it only removed cars with the consent of the owner, “and therefore no expenditure was incurred”.
In Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown, 40 vehicles were abandoned in the same period but the cars are recycled by contractors at no cost to the local authority. Similarly, the contractor who has dealt with 21 vehicles in Waterford City in the past 18 months has not charged the council.
However, Dublin City revealed it is running a deficit of approximately €12,200 on the 316 abandoned vehicles recovered in its local authority area between the start of last year and the end of July. Since Jul 1, a new agreement with contractor Hammond Lane Metal Co means in future disposing of such vehicles will be cost neutral.
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