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Ireland's equine welfare issues tackled

August 6, 2010

Three major equine organisations in Ireland are teaming up to work out ways to combat the rising number of horse welfare issues in the country.

Members of the Garda Mounted unit along with members of the Army Equitation School, top Dressage Rider Heike Hostein and Joe Walsh - Chairman of Horse Sport Ireland - at the launch of the Irish Horse Welfare Trust's Welfare Aware Stamp. The trust has launched the equine ethical stamp, aimed at the racing, equestrian and corporate related community in Ireland. It will raise funds for the IHWT rescue, and re-training and re-homing programmes.
Horse Sport Ireland (HSI), Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) and the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association (ITBA) have formed a working group to devise an industry response to the recently published UCD report on horse welfare. The group will have its first meeting on August 20 and will produce its findings by October 31.

Horse Sport Ireland Chairman Joe Walsh said that it was important that the industry considered the findings and decided how to respond.

"Horse welfare is an issue that all of us in the equestrian sector are concerned about and we need to see what measures we can take to reduce the problem. It is particularly important the thoroughbred and sport horse sector take a united approach," he said.

Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association Manager Shane O'Dwyer welcomed the fact that there is industry support across all sectors to study the recommendations put forward in the recent UCD Review of Equine Welfare in Ireland and is looking forward to working closely with HRI and HSI. O'Dwyer feels that stakeholder participation will go a long way to addressing some of the current issues.

Echoing the sentiments on tracability and accountibility, O'Dwyer went on to say that Local Authorities have legislative powers conferred by the Control of Horses Act 1996. A more co-ordinated and proactive approach to manage the keeping of horses, and thus to equine welfare would be better than the current approach which is commonly fragmented.

The UCD report, which was funded by World Horse Welfare, was published recently under the title of "Challenges and Solutions to Support Good Equine Welfare Practice in Ireland" and was co-authored by Joe Collins, Alison Hanlon, Simon More, Patrick Wall and Vivienne Duggan.

Joe Walsh said that it was important that there was balance in the welfare debate.

"While there is no doubt there are problems and that some horses are being abandoned and mistreated, the vast majority of horses are well cared for by their owners," he said.

Walsh said that while there was a huge amount of good work being done by charities, the industry needed to look at measures to reduce the problem.

"The rescue organisations do a super job but the real challenge is to try to reduce the number of welfare cases and this is where I would see this group focusing its efforts," he said.

Walsh said that one area that he would expect the group to focus on was traceability, as he said it was important that owners could be held accountable if they abandoned or mistreated their horses.

"We need a system to track ownership so that we can verify who owns a horse at any point in time," he said.



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