A leading charity is warning of an ongoing “horse crisis” as Lancashire animal cruelty figures are revealed.
Figures released today as part of an RSPCA annual report reveal thousands of complaints were investigated last year.
In Lancashire, investigators probed 4,770 animal cruelty cases, part of 41,023 complaints across the north.
This represents a decrease from the previous year, when 5,124 complaints were investigated in the county.
But senior figures within the charity say the plight of horses is a particular worry as rescuers and welfare charities are “struggle to cope.”
The impact of the recession, over breeding, the high costs of vet bills and falling prices for horses have all contributed to the crisis, which has also seen a distressing number of horses dumped dead and dying like rubbish, the charity has said.
The RSPCA’s national equine coordinator Christine McNeil said: “We’ve been talking about the horse crisis for several years now, but the truth is the situation is just as severe today as when it started.
“Last year we took in more horses than we have in any of the past four years (980), and with our inspectors being called to rescue more and more every week, we are stretched to the limits.
“Up and down the country, horses are being found sick, or dumped liked rubbish, dying or dead.
“Distressingly, this is common and it’s a huge issue.
“We are constantly receiving calls to our cruelty line – on average 80 per day about horses alone – as well as messages every day on social media from very concerned and upset people asking for our help.”
Lancashire figures show 484 complaints about the treatment of equines were investigated in 2017, compared with 492 the previous year.
Meanwhile, the number of horses rescued by the charity has fallen from 67 in 2015, to 30 in 2017.
Tony Tyler, deputy chief executive of World Horse Welfare, the organisation that runs the Penny Farm rescue and rehoming centre in Lancashire, said: “Britain continues to have many more horses than there are good homes, and the number of welfare concerns reported and investigated by our nationwide team has remained consistently high over the last three years.
“Our four centres, including Penny Farm, are at or above capacity with horses and ponies at various stages of rehabilitation.
“Indiscriminate breeding is the major contributor to the problem, simply because these owners often have no purpose for the horses they produce.
“We have had more foals born in our care over the last few years than ever before, as well as orphaned foals who have been callously discarded by their owners.”
Penny Farm, part of World Horse Welfare, on Preston New Road at Westby, has been involved in several high-profile cases of equine neglect.
In one case, the facility took in four ponies that had been mistreated by their owner in east Lancashire last year.
One of the ponies, a 15-year-old grey stallion called Tiddles, had a wound that was crawling with maggots and had to be put to sleep by a vet immediately.
RSPCA inspector Lyndsey Taylor said: “Tiddles had a large open wound on his side which was crawling with maggots.
“He really was in a shocking condition.”
Two grey mares, 10-year-old Cara and four-year-old Sapphire, also had overgrown hooves.
They and another grey mare, four-year-old Sparkle, and her foal who had been born in January, were signed over to Penny Farm.
Cara and Sapphire were put to sleep as they had Cushings Disease.
Sparkle and her foal, who has been named Pearl, are doing well in the care of World Horse Welfare. Pearl is up for rehoming and it’s hoped Sparkle will be rehomed in due course.
Their previous owner was sentenced at Blackburn Magistrates’ Court in December last year after pleading guilty to three offences under the Animal Welfare Act. He was given a 12-week jail sentence suspended for 12 months and ordered to do 100 hours of unpaid work.
Ashleigh Balderson and her partner Adam, who live in the Ribble Valley, have provided a new home for a mistreated Shetland pony who was left to roam near to a busy road in east Yorkshire.
The animal, now named Olly, was rescued by the RSPCA in January 2016.
His owners, a woman and a man, were found guilty of failing to meet his needs by failing to provide a suitable environment for him and sentenced at Bridlington Magistrates’ Court last year.
A catalogue of incidents involving their horses roaming loose next to a main road had resulted in the RSPCA giving advice to the owners, but this advice was repeatedly ignored.
In addition to being denied ownership of Olly, magistrates ordered the man to undertake 150 hours of unpaid work and the woman to complete 40 hours of unpaid work. They were also ordered to pay £340 costs each.
New owner Ashleigh Balderson, who lives in the Ribble Valley, Lancashire, said: “Me and my partner Adam had been looking for a children’s riding pony when we met Olly at the big horse show Equifest and he was good as gold.
“We have eight horses altogether, including a retired cob so when the kids are at school he is a great companion for him and they go out together. He’s really settled in well and the kids love him. He has a home for life with us.”