RSPCA fears neglect crisis after 88 horse incidents during lockdown

PUBLISHED: 12:11 30 September 2020 | UPDATED: 12:11 30 September 2020

One of the horses dealt with by the RSPCA during the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: RSPCA

One of the horses dealt with by the RSPCA during the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: RSPCA


The RSPCA fears ‘worst yet to come’ after being called to deal with 88 horse incidents in Norfolk during the coronavirus crisis.

Chris Sherwood, RSPCA chief executive. Picture: RSPCAChris Sherwood, RSPCA chief executive. Picture: RSPCA

As the microchipping of horses becomes compulsory in England this month, the charity said it will not be enough to prevent an “impending horse welfare catastrophe”.

It is braced for more horses to be abandoned or neglected amid the economic downturn as a result of the pandemic and is urging people who are looking to take on a horse to think about adopting one from the charity.

MORE: RSPCA to make 270 redundancies - but Norfolk centres safe

Last year the charity rehomed 242 horses, but almost 760 remain in the charity’s care currently, desperately needing new homes.

Emaciated pony Matilda when rescued from a field near Diss. Picture: Redwings Horse SanctuaryEmaciated pony Matilda when rescued from a field near Diss. Picture: Redwings Horse Sanctuary

The charity spends approximately £5,200 per year for the care of each horse taken in - that’s more than £4.8 million each year.

Chris Sherwood, RSPCA chief executive, 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.”

Matilda at Redwings' specialist quarantine centre. Picture: Redwings Horse SanctuaryMatilda at Redwings' specialist quarantine centre. Picture: Redwings Horse Sanctuary

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As well as being called to 88 cases in Norfolk a further 65 horse abandonment or neglect were dealt with in Suffolk.

Throughout lockdown, RSPCA has been working alongside the charities including Blue Cross, British Horse Society and Norfolk-based Redwings Horse Sanctuary.

Amongst those dealt with by Redwings was cob cross Matilda who was discovered in a field near Diss, severely underweight, covered in lice and suffering from a severe worm burden. Without immediate help it was clear she would not survive.

MORE: Pony found emaciated and close to death in field

The RSPCA has welcomed the new legislation demanding compulsory microchipping of all horses irrespective of age; currently around 70pc of the horses we rescue are not microchipped.

Mr Sherwood said: “When it came in for dogs, the number of strays reduced by 20pc 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.

“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.”

• For more on rehoming a horse from the RSPCA visit

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