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Posted 20 August 2010

Horse industry responds to welfare issues raised by UCD report

Horse Sport Ireland, Horse Racing Ireland, and the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association have formed a working group to devise an industry response to a recent UCD report on horse welfare in Ireland.

The report, Challenges and Solutions to Support Good Equine Welfare Practice in Ireland, shows that increasing numbers of horses are at risk – of being abandoned or relinquished to animal welfare charities, or alternately euthanized, exported or sent to abattoirs on economic grounds, as a result of a current ‘oversupply’ in the industry, coupled with reduced market demand.

The report highlights that industry stakeholders perceived that horse welfare is most likely to be compromised at unregulated gatherings such as fairs and markets, and during the disposal process.

“A key issue is the lack of a comprehensive system of registered ownership, including transfer of ownership, for horses in Ireland,” says Dr Joe Collins, UCD School of Agriculture, Food Science and Veterinary Medicine, one of the authors of the report.

“It is currently not possible to track horses from birth to death except those whose owners/keepers voluntarily register their origin, change of ownership, movement and ultimate demise,” explains Dr Collins.

“This has implications for equine health and welfare, including disease spread, the introduction of exotic disease, proper medicines use in horses and not being able to identify an owner/keeper to hold responsible in the event of problems such as the neglect or abandonment.”

“Ireland needs better and stronger enforcement of horse identification particularly at critical control points such as horse-fairs and points of export/import,” says Dr Collins.

The UCD report also recommends outreach education programmes on horse identification and husbandry clinics for groups involved in unregulated fairs and markets.

A low-cost or cost-neutral scheme to encourage the humane disposal of horses is also suggested to encourage best practice and to protect the welfare of no-longer wanted animals.

The industry group responding to the report will meet during August and produce its findings in October 2010.

The report was co-written by Dr Joe Collins, Dr Alison Hanlon, Professor Simon Moore, Professor Patrick Wall, and Dr Vivienne Duggan, from the UCD School of Agriculture, Food Science and Veterinary Medicine. The research work, on which the report is based, was conducted during 2007, 2008 and 2009, and was funded by a grant from World Horse Welfare.


(Produced by UCD University Relations)


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