Several seized horses will have to be put down

Several horses which were among 84 seized during a major animal welfare crackdown in Cork yesterday will have be put down.

Vets made the decision last night after inspecting some of the animals who were found to be in appalling condition, including some with cracked skin and open wounds, and others with various serious health issues.

The animals, who were being grazed illegally on city council and Nama-owned land, were seized as part of Operation Capall — of one of the largest multi-agency animal welfare crackdowns of its kind in recent years.

Gardaí sealed off roads in and around the Hollyhill area at dawn yesterday as officials from the Department of Agriculture and Cork City Council moved in around 6am.

Backed up by almost 50 gardaí and members of the Regional Support Unit, they spent several hours rounding up 70 horses from fields in the Knocknaheeny and Hollyhill area, and a further 17 animals from the Fairfield Ave in Farranree.

Officials also found the skeletal remains of three horses and one carcass in fields in Hollyhill, and the remains of a horse in the Fairfield Ave area.

Six tractors moved in to plough the fields immediately after the operation to prevent future grazing.

One man was arrested in the Hollyhill area for unrelated matters.

The operation brought to over 3,000 the number of horses seized nationwide this year, with some 247 horses impounded in the Cork area alone.

The seized animals were removed to a secure location where they will be assessed, and checked for identification and registration.

Supt Con Cadogan said the horses will not be released unless the owner can provide proof that their animal has a passport, that they have paid the appropriate fees and have access to lands registered under new equine legislation which was introduced in Jan 2012.

Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, welcomed the operation which he said was mounted to prevent the emergence of an animal welfare problem over coming months.

He said the authorities have had horse welfare concerns for some time arising from the over-production of horses and the presence of unidentified horses on both public and private lands.

There have been particular problems with horses in the Cork City areas of Gurranabraher, Hollyhill, Knocknaheeny and Nash’s Boreen, with incidents of dead horses found on sites and stray horses on public roads causing risk to public.

“There are significant numbers of horses grazing illegally on Nama and local authority-owned land in the north Cork City area,” he said.

However, the Traveller Visibility Group (TVG), which is working with Traveller families who have chipped their horses, said it was disappointed with the timing of the seizure.

“We would be the first to admit that there is a horse ownership problem in the city,” TVG spokesperson Chrissie O’Sullivan said.

“But we are working to resolve it. Only two weeks ago, we took several families down to visit a horse project in Tralee.

“It’s not rocket science. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. Horse projects are working elsewhere. Why can’t we replicate those here in Cork?”

She called on the authorities to consult with TVG and to provide grazing land for horse owners.

The minister said his department can provide emergency funding to horse owners who can’t afford to pay for the humane disposal of their animals.

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