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RSPCA called to 261 incidents involving horses in Cornwall

RSPCA called to 261 incidents involving horses in Cornwall

Published by Sarah Yeoman at 8:35am 11th June 2020.

It has been revealed that the RSPCA was called about more than 261 equine incidents in Cornwall last year, sparking fears that more sick horses will be dumped across the south west.

The charity is warning that a financial recession could plunge the country into a second wave of the equine crisis which has already led to thousands of dumped and dying horses and crippled welfare charities. 

In 2019, the charity received reports of more than 4,035 incidents involving horses in the south west, 261 of those in Cornwall.

By the end of the year it had nearly 900 in its care nationally, leaving its rescue centres full and funding hundreds more in private boarding.

Since lockdown, the RSPCA has received 35 reports about horses in Cornwall, but fears much worse is to come if, as expected, the Covid crisis sparks a UK and global recession. 

Equine welfare charities are already under immense strain, following the horse crisis which was sparked off by the 2008 financial crash and the sector is extremely concerned about the welfare repercussions for horses in the months ahead with an estimated 7,000 horses at risk of suffering. 

Now the RSPCA is appealing for vital donations to help it prepare for an influx of horses and ponies desperately in need of help.

“This is a truly worrying time for equine charities - we still haven’t got a handle on the repercussions of the current horse crisis, and it now looks like the worst is yet to come.

“In April 2011, before the effects of the financial recession had hit, the RSPCA had 290 horses in its care, already more than our official stables could house. The following year, the impact of the crisis really began to hit and our officers were called out every day up and down the country to neglected and abandoned horses. By May 2012, the number of horses in our care had leapt to 600. Fast-forward to today, and we’re caring for 927 horses - that’s three times the amount since the crisis hit, and we strongly fear that the impact will be even worse this time round.

“With such a huge number of horses in our care, and so many in private boarding, at great cost, we have already had to adapt how we try to help as many horses as we can. For example, several ‘herds’ of horses in need are being cared for in situ with our officers visiting regularly to feed and care for them, until we can find spaces in one of our centres for them, or funds to transport them to private boarding."

Christine McNeil, the charity’s National Equine Inspectors Co-Ordinator

The RSPCA says the current horse crisis is thought to have been sparked by continued overbreeding, coupled with falling demand for some types of horses, which left a surplus of unwanted animals which have been left dumped like rubbish, sometimes extremely sick or dying, leaving equine charities bursting at the seams with these abandoned animals. 

Threats of a financial recession this year has led to fears that irresponsible horse breeders will continue to breed their animals in a bid to turn a quick profit and that existing horse owners will struggle financially to keep their animals and cover vet bills. This may lead to animals suffering, and some may even resort to abandoning their animals out of desperation. 


Between March-May 2020, during the lockdown period, the charity has received reports of 2,116 incidents relating to horses alone.

The RSPCA has taken in 82 horses during lockdown already, bringing the total number of horses in the charity’s care to 927. This figure is much more than the charity can care for at its own centres, forcing the charity to pay for three quarters of horses to be housed at private boarding stables.

The charity spends approximately £5200 per year for the care of each horse taken in - that’s over £4.8 million each year. 

The RSPCA has been working alongside the Blue Cross, Bransby Horses, British Horse Society, Redwings, The Donkey Sanctuary and World Horse Welfare, in a bid to tackle this national crisis. Many of these charities have seen their income plummet while still continuing to look after the horses in their care.

Equine organisations have also been hit by the difficulty of rehoming under the present restrictions.   Rehoming only restarted in mid April but horses represent one of the biggest challenges of all rescued animals to rehome, because of the difficulty of doing so whilst respecting social distancing, and while equine centres remain closed to the public. Despite these difficulties, the RSPCA has managed to rehome 21 horses in the ten weeks since lockdown - this compares to 56 in January and February. 

To help the RSPCA keep rescuing horses, providing them with essential veterinary care, rehabilitation, and finding them new homes through these unprecedented times, you can donate here www.rspca.org.uk/covid

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