RSPCA's fear after 88 horse incidents in Norfolk during lockdown
The RSPCA had to deal with 88 incidents involving horses in Norfolk in the six months after lockdown began.
And although the animal welfare charity welcomes microchipping of horses, which becomes compulsory in England from Thursday (October 1), it fears it will not be enough to prevent an impending catastrophe.
It is braced for huge numbers of abandoned and neglected horses as the country plunges into an even deeper financial downturn than the last recession in 2009.
The number of horses in its care is already three times what it was then. Now more than 750 are desperately needing new homes.
The charity is urging people who are looking to take on a horse to think about adopting one from the RSPCA. Staff are keen to showcase the versatility and capability of the horses they rescue, whether they are ridden horses, companion animals or youngsters with heaps of potential.
As its month-long animal rehoming drive, Adoptober, launches it says between March 23 and September 8 it dealt with 4,479 incidents involving horses.
The RSPCA says it welcomes the change in the law to make microchipping of all equines mandatory, irrespective of age - as it is for dogs - but warns the move is not enough alone to tackle irresponsible breeders and owners at the heart of the crisis.
Chief executive Chris Sherwood said: “Equine charities fear that autumn will create the perfect storm as grazing decreases, the end of furlough and the deepening recession will see more owners struggling with costs of care leading to neglect and abandonment, yet people have been continuing to breed horses despite Covid.
“Alongside this, equine rescues, already reporting a sharp drop in funds, may start to go under as the financial situation bites, which will increase the burden on the RSPCA."
Donations to animal welfare charities plummeted during the pandemic and received no specific financial help.
"We are calling on the Government to step in with financial support as they have for other charities affected by the pandemic and recognise that the vital services provided by the animal welfare sector are under huge strain," added Mr Sherwood.
Currently around 70 per cent of the horses which the RSPCA rescues are not microchipped.
Chris said: “When it came in for dogs, the number of strays reduced by 20 per cent in four years, but unfortunately we just don’t think that’s going to happen for horses.
"Without rigorous enforcement and tough financial penalties, there is little to stop irresponsible horse owners continuing to breed and dump their animals.
“Local authorities, who are in charge of enforcement of equine identification regulations, are already operating with extremely limited resources and are facing the huge challenges of Covid, the recession and Brexit."
The charity’s equine staff are appealing to experienced horse owners across England and Wales to consider rehoming a rescue horse if they possibly can.
Anyone interested in fostering or adopting an animal from the RSPCA should visit www.westnorfolkrspca.org.uk to see which animals are available nearby.