Westmeath had to euthanise twice as many stray horses as it rehomed last year – even though the county had one of the best rates of rehoming of any local authority in the country.
While 35 of the 118 horses seized in Westmeath during 2013 were rehomed, some 69 were euthanised. The remaining 11 were reclaimed.
Only Mayo County Council and Galway County Council managed to rehome more horses than Westmeath. In Mayo’s case, 100 were rehomed, and 101 euthanised. In Galway, however, while 38 were rehomed, some 283 horses were euthanised.
The figures were given in Dáil Éireann by Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, in response to a series of queries raised by Deputy Ann Phelan.
Deputy Coveney said that the Control of Horses Act 1996 was introduced to address serious problems being caused by straying horses wandering on public roads and lands and posing risks to the public, especially motorists and young children and property.
His department offers local authorities €200 towards the rehoming of each horse, but where rehoming is not an option, €450 is available for the costs associated with disposal. “My department will, in conjunction with the local authorities and An Garda Síochána, continue to adopt a pro-active approach in relation to horse welfare and will remove at-risk animals and, where appropriate, institute prosecution relating to any mal-treatment of these animals,” the minister stated.
He added that he recently introduced new legislation, the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013, “which places clear obligations on owners regarding the need to look after animals in their care”.
“My department has been operating an Animal Welfare Helpline for some time with a view to enabling persons who are concerned about the welfare of horses or indeed any animal to contact the department at firstname.lastname@example.org and on lo-call 1850 211 990,” he concluded.