Norfolk horse charities warn of winter of discontent

Two Norfolk animal welfare charities have warned of an impending crisis unless the government and the public do more to stop horses from being abandoned.

Redwings and World Horse Welfare say they could be facing another winter of discontent as they struggle to keep up with the number of welfare and rehoming cases.

Officials from the two Norfolk horse rescue charities and other welfare organisations called on more help after presenting a new report to the Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

The report, 'On the Verge: the approaching Equine Crisis in England and Wales', predicts that another harsh winter will leave animal charities physically unable to cope and predicts more than 6,000 horses are at risk across the country this winter.

Redwings, whose headquarters are in Hapton in south Norfolk, has seen abandonments rise from 160 in 2009 to 450 in 2011 whilst World Horse Welfare, which has a centre at Snetterton, has seen the numbers of horses taken into its centres rise from 129 in 2006 to 194 in 2011.

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Roly Owers, chief executive of World Horse Welfare said: 'The organisations are already at breaking point with a severe shortage of available places and we are aware of an additional 6,000 horses which could be at risk over the winter.'

'These are all groups of horses that are on the edge of becoming welfare concerns, either because their owners are struggling to look after them or because they are not getting the care they need and ownership is unclear. We could not cope if even a fraction of this number needed to be rescued.'

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Nicolas de Brauwere, head of welfare at Redwings Horse Sanctuary, added: 'Absolutely no one wants to see horses put to sleep but local authorities may be faced with some very difficult decisions if the situation does not improve.'

The rise in cases has been blamed on the economic climate and overbreeding.

The government has been asked to introduce criminal legislation targeting illegal grazing and do more to link horses to owners to tackle irresponsible ownership. Calls have also been made for increased intelligence-led enforcement of horse imports and exports.

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