Court cases and coronavirus ‘bed blocking’ horse sanctuaries

World Horse Welfare is looking after record numbers of animals Picture: World Horse Welfare

World Horse Welfare is looking after record numbers of animals Picture: World Horse Welfare - Credit: Archant

Britain’s largest horse rescue and rehoming charity is caring for record numbers of animals.

World Horse Welfare is caring for 406 horses at its four centres in in Norfolk, Somerset, Lancashire and Aberdeenshire, which would normally hold 330. Some 142 of the animals are being looked after at Snetterton.

MORE - Google shows what Norfolk’s been up to under lockdownTony Tyler, the charity’s director of UK welfare said: “While the welfare of these horses is assured, providing the care they need is stretching the resources and efforts of the staff and, as many of these animals are from large unhandled groups and so are unused to human contact, it makes handling them even more of a challenge.

“We had expected that with the arrival of spring, we would be able to rehome a good bunch of them who were ready to leave us but, with the government restrictions, we can’t undertake home checks or invite applicants to meet our horses. So, we will continue to care for all of them, while finding space where we can to take in emergency cases.”

All horses are receiving maintenance care by the teams, but rehabilitation activities such as physiotherapy, lunging, backing and riding have been temporarily suspended to enable the grooms to self-isolate if needed or adjust to staff members falling ill in the coming weeks. Avoiding any potentially higher-risk activities with horses – such as riding – was also a decision taken to reduce the chance of putting extra pressure on the emergency services and NHS.

Subscribe to our daily coronavirus newsletter, with all the latest from where you liveThe large number of horses currently at the charity is the result of a number of large, complex welfare cases across the country and the laws around animals seized as part of welfare prosecutions.

“In the first three months of 2020, we took in 107 horses, of which 53 were involved in prosecution cases,” said Mr Tyler. “World Horse Welfare works with other welfare organisations to rescue horses and, where large group rescues are made, animals are shared around between the different organisations wherever space is available.”

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Usually, horses taken in by the charity will be ready for rehoming once they have been checked over by a team of specialists including a vet and farrier.

However, when the welfare case is the subject of a prosecution, the horses are often not signed over and by law these can only be given maintenance care.

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Cases can take a very long time to come to court – sometimes two or more years - and during that time the horses are ‘bed-blocking’ the limited space at the centres.

During the current coronavirus restrictions the charity can not rehome horses but people can still apply online at to take an animal once resrictions are lifted.

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