Equine welfare in Northern Ireland has reached crisis point according to a County Antrim horse sanctuary.
Thousands of stray horses are being left to fend for themselves according to the Crosskennan Lane Animal Sanctuary, which is being inundated with abandoned horses.
Across Ireland it is estimated there has been a 200 percent rise in the number of horses being mistreated since the downtown began.
Welfare groups have warned that animals are now being left to starve to death as their owners can no longer afford to feed and look after them.
Last week alone, three horse were found dead and almost 40 others were discovered living in appalling conditions, in a suspected animal cruelty case at a County Antrim farm.
Animal welfare experts have warned that up to 20,000 horses are abandoned across Ireland.
Legislation is due to be introduced next month which will aim at preventing unnecessary suffering to any animal.
Janice Watt from the Crosskennan Lane Animal Sanctuary, which is a voluntary organization, said the situation has reached crisis point.
“Equine welfare is in crisis in Northern Ireland, but the problem is multi-faceted,” she told the Belfast Telegraph.
Watt believes that the problem is over breeding.
“People are gathering more than they can afford to feed and these horses are then being abandoned,” she said.
“Slaughter is expensive and horses have to travel to Britain or across the border.
“There is an abattoir that takes horses one day a week, but there is an eight-week waiting list.
Therefore, some horses are being starved to death by their owners while waiting for slaughter, as they cannot afford to feed them.”