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Charity fears a second wave of equine crisis: “The worst is yet to come”

The RSPCA is warning that a financial recession could plunge the country into a second wave of an equine crisis. Which, it said, has already led to thousands of dumped and dying horses and crippled welfare charities.

The charity said it was called 15 times about equine incidents in Bedfordshire during lockdown.

In 2019, the RSPCA received reports of more than 4,370 incidents involving horses in the south east of England, including 145 in Bedfordshire. 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.

Now the charity 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. The sector is concerned about the welfare repercussions for horses in the months ahead, with an estimated 7,000 horses at risk of suffering nationally.

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

“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.”

The RSPCA is appealing for vital donations to help it prepare for an influx of horses and ponies desperately in need of help. It has taken in 82 horses during lockdown already (23 March 2020 to 31 May 2020), 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.

To help the RSPCA keep rescuing horses, providing them with essential veterinary care, rehabilitation, and finding them new homes through these unprecedented times, please donate at

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