Unwanted horses regularly end up being put down

It a dog’s life for strays in Co Cork, but far worse for unwanted horses.

County council figures show new owners are usually found for homeless or stray canines. But, for unwanted horses regularly ends up doing a short stint on death row before summary execution by lethal injection.

County councillors have expressed “shock” at the disparity between the number of stray dogs and horses being put down.

Local authority dog wardens picked up 548 strays which were reclaimed or rehomed.

In cases involving stray or unwanted horses, it was far different. In 2014, the council put down 157 but the number was cut to 119 last year.

Despite the drop, councillors expressed concern at the continuing high number of horses being euthanised every year.

In 2014, a total of 176 stray horses were impounded, while last year it was 155.

However, the reasons for the decrease in putting down the horses might have to do with a number of factors, which seemed to focus fare more on money than compassion.

Council director of environmental services Sharon Corcoran said the local authority no longer collects stray horses which are straying onto private land — as its a civil matter — and only rounds them up if they present a danger to road users.

Ms Corcoran told a meeting of the council’s Western Division in Clonakilty it had also become too expensive to get involved in looking after stray horses, especially as the Department of Environment had recently cut grant aid for such purposes by almost 50%.

Fianna Fáil councillor Christopher O’Sullivan said there was “an animal rights issue” surrounding the high number of horse killings and “an alternative” was needed.

“I would imagine a lot of these strays are picked up around the periphery of the city,” he said. “I don’t know the answer honestly, it’s a tough one, but I think the public will be quite worried by the figures.”

Sinn Féin councillor Paul Hayes said the number of horses put down was unacceptably high. He asked if the problem was mostly related to Travellers and added that it might be a good idea for the council to liaise more with Traveller community representatives to reduce the number of horses not being cared for.

Meanwhile, Fine Gael councillor Kevin Murphy wondered if the reasons for putting horses down was “because they were in very bad condition” health-wise. If not, he said, it was “a very backward step”.

Ms Corcoran would not be drawn about the suggestion that it was Traveller issue, but said the biggest problem the council had with stray horses was around the northside of Cork City.

She said it had become “challenging” for the county council to manage strays.

“We no longer pick them up on private property,” she said. “It’s so expensive [to collect and process them] and we’re paying 50% of the cost. We’re only picking them up if they are on a road and a danger [to the public].”

On average, it costs the local authority around €1,000 to process a stray horse.

The senior council official said that the council had to capture a horse, arrange transport, and then pay security at a designated pound to look after the animals.

On top of that, the animal had to be attended to by a vet and electronically tagged. The council, she said, was only obliged to keep horses for five days.

After this, if they are not reclaimed or a new home found , the council is forced to put them down. Ms Corcoran said it was “unfortunate that the problem was bigger than the resources”.

The council, she said, is working with the donkey sanctuary in Liscarroll in north Cork and with other animal welfare groups.


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