March 15, 2024 | Animal Stories

Vulnerable horses rescued

Vulnerable horses rescued

A consignment of horses abandoned at a Kent holding yard when authorities discovered they were being smuggled out of the UK, has been rescued by our member charity World Horse Welfare.

The mixed load of 26 frightened and vulnerable animals had been crammed onto a transporter to be exported, possibly from Ireland, through Britain and on to Europe, where it is believed they were destined for a slaughterhouse.

Only 19 of the horses, who had been cruelling crammed onto the lorry, had the necessary paperwork for the journey and many had health issues making them unfit to travel.

It was also discovered that amongst the frightened group were pregnant mares and unhandled youngsters who had only recently been removed from their nursing mothers. One of the expectant mares is suffering from the painful hoof disease, laminitis, and the suffering of one horse was so severe that the kindest decision was to put her to sleep.

Sadly, some of these horses and ponies were probably much-loved family pets, sold with the best of intentions, but ending up in this living nightmare.

Shortly after their arrival at World Horse Welfare’s Norfolk Rescue and Rehoming Centre, the group were also found to be carrying Equine Influenza, a highly contagious disease affecting horses. Despite the Dover 26 being quarantined when they first arrived, the outbreak forced the farm to go into lockdown whilst the horses were treated to minimise the chances of further spread across the farm: a logistical and financial challenge for the charity.

At a time when the UK Government’s Animal Welfare (Live Exports) Bill is progressing through the House of Lords, the case highlights the illegal trade in horses and why secondary legislation and robust enforcement and equine traceability are vital to protect British horses and ponies from an unknown fate.

The case highlights the sickening threat to vulnerable animals.

World Horse Welfare Chief Executive Roly Owers said: “We have long been campaigning for a ban on the live export of horses for slaughter from Britain, and whilst the forthcoming Animal Welfare (Live Exports) Bill is welcomed by the charity, the case of the Dover 26 demonstrates the need for secondary legislation that will introduce measures to help ensure the ban can be enforced.

“This case highlights the tragic reality we believe countless equines have to suffer through being exported to slaughter. Drivers and vehicles are switched, horses pass through multiple hands, sometimes on fraudulent passports, and are moved between local authority areas and from country to country, before they are exported. All to make it harder to trace the people involved, the individual equines being moved and the long journeys that they are being subjected to. To put an end to these abhorrent movements and to protect our nation’s horses, it is imperative that the UK Government gets the Live Export Bill onto the statute book, finally implements a robust and digitalised equine identification system, and establishes an effective system for enforcing all equine legislation, so that smugglers can no longer hide behind a smokescreen of confusion.”

These horses, ponies, colts and unborn foals are depending on World Horse Welfare to nurse them back to health and give them the lifetime of security that they richly deserve, a promise made to every horse who comes into their care.

Our member charities can only provide urgently care like this with your help. Will you please help animals who need them today?