The National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) in South Africa has highlighted what it says is the “ghastly reality” of what happens to some horses when their racing days are over.
The case came to light just over a week ago when the NSPCA said it uncovered the “horrific situation” on a farm in the Harrismith area. Of 33 horses, 18 were euthanized over a two-day period.
“What we found is a damning indictment – proof indeed – that image and reality with regard to racing are far apart,” NSPCA equine inspector Mike Allen said.
The NSPCA responded to a call about thin and dying horses in the area.
The horses were being advertised for sale and the accompanying image was enough to convince the NSPCA that assistance was urgently required, Allen said.
A warrant was obtained to allow Allen access to the property, where about 33 horses were being kept.
Allen was accompanied by a veterinarian and a qualified farrier.
Most of the horses on the property were thoroughbreds, including the off-spring of Al-Mufti, Western Winter, Tiger Ridge, London News and Model Man.
Such was the emaciated condition of the horses that nine had to be euthanized on September 16. A further nine were euthanized the following day.
Two of these horses had serious injuries that had not been treated and which were untreatable at that stage, Allen said. A mare and her foal were removed by one of the owners and taken to a property in another province.
It is alleged that the horses were kept as blood donors for a company that manufactures blood culture media.
Criminal charges will be laid under the Animals Protection Act against the two owners of the property, whose homes are in Potchefstroom and Kibler Park.
The manager of the farm in Harrismith will also be charged.
“This is the shocking reality of what happens when horses can no longer race. The term ‘retired from the track’ is misleading. They are traded.”
The NSPCA opposes animal racing, stressing that there is more to racing than the race itself.
“This is the bigger picture and the part that the public who support horse racing simply do not see. We have to step in when owners can no longer afford to keep the animals or if they have been sold on to individuals who take inadequate care of them or who simply do not care about them.”
Animals were not commodities, he said.
The NSPCA said it had written to both the National Horse Racing Authority and the Jockey Club requesting assistance in the investigation.
The Thoroughbred Breeders Association’s chief executive, Tom Callaghan, told the Independent Online he was shocked by the situation and vowed to find out how the animals ended up on the farm.
“In most cases, they are sold in good faith from racing yards. They are usually looked after and have great lives, but sometimes end up with people like this,” he said.
The said the association would take action to ensure the farm owners “never own another horse”.
He said members took the care of their retired horses seriously and were exploring ways to improve the care of all horses.