Nugget the horse rescued by fire crews in Hatherton

RSPCA has voiced fears a recession will bring “welfare catastrophe” for horses after responding to 84 horse incidents in Cheshire during lockdown.

The charity is bracing itself for an influx of sick and abandoned horses following the pandemic
that will cripple resources.

It comes as a new microchipping law comes into force, making microchipping of horses compulsory in England this month.

The charity has launched a month-long rehoming drive, Adoptober.

Nationally, the number of horses in its care is already three times what it was at the start of the last recession in 2009.

During the lockdown, the RSPCA dealt with 4,479 incidents involving horses – including 84 in Cheshire.

At the time of the last recession, the RSPCA had 250 horses in its care in 2009, but following that downturn, numbers peaked at nearly 1,200 in 2013.

Chris Sherwood, Chief Executive of the RSPCA, said: “Equine charities fear 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.

“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.”

When micro-chipping came in for dogs, the number of strays reduced by 20% in four years.

Chris Sherwood added: “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 RSPCA and other equine welfare organisations have been struggling to pick up the pieces of the horse crisis since the last recession and as we enter what could be the biggest financial downturn of a generation, the sector is already bursting at the seams and facing unprecedented challenges due to the pandemic.”

Throughout the month of October, the RSPCA is shining a light on animals in its care which need a new home and promoting the benefits of adopting a rescue animal through its Adoptober campaign.

The RSPCA is the UK’s biggest rehomer, finding 39,178 homes for pets last year – that’s 107 a day, or four an hour.

Under the current Covid rehoming protocols anyone interested in fostering or adopting an animal from the RSPCA should visit the website to see which animals are available near you and should check with their local centre for the current process applicable in that area.

To find out more please visit www.rspca.org.uk/coronavirus

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