Irish welfare groups have become inundated with abandoned and unwanted horses in the past six months it has emerged.
Horses have become the latest victims of the economic downturn as horse breeders and owners struggle to meet the costs associated with keeping their animals. Horses are fast becoming an unaffordable luxury in Ireland.
Miley Cash, a horse dealer for 55 years told the Telegraph that Ireland is polluted with unwanted horses.
"Fewer and fewer people are buying. Some people have bought horses, then returned them to me as they just can't afford to keep them. And a mare in foal is worth nothing.
"Before the financial crisis, people were buying all kinds of rubbish from unscrupulous dealers, and money was not a problem. But I think that sadly a cull of those dirt-poor horses with no breeding may be the answer."
The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA) said that horses are being abandoned across the country. Barbara Bent, chairman ISPCA told the Telegraph that there is a lack of responsibility.
"Before the crisis, people were prepared to look after old or poorly-bred animals. Now they are just being dumped in woodlands in the middle of the night. It's a huge problem – and no one is prepared to take responsibility."
"Back in the Celtic Tiger days, when the economy was booming, there was space for all of these animals," Mrs. Bent said.
Mrs. Bent added in the boom times horses were viewed as status symbols and were snapped up.
"People bought horses as status symbols. Builders, plumbers, postmen would make a fortune, move out of the cities, buy a house in the country, and take on a few horses. But now, that's unrealistic. People are stuck with huge mortgages and no job.”
Welfare groups are concerned about the upcoming winter months as they are already swamped with unwanted animals. As the temperatures drop feeding costs increase and more owners may be faced with the difficult decision of giving up their animals.
The Irish Horse Welfare Trust (IHWT) has said that their rescue centers are full to capacity. Sharon Newsome, co-founder of the Irish Horse Welfare Trust told the Telegraph."Our rescue centers are chock-a-block full, we are used to being pushed in the lean winter months, but have never, ever operated at full capacity over the summer. Our re-homing is down, and we don't know what we will do."
IHWT is currently calling for the introduction of the new Animal Health and Welfare Bill which is in the final draft stages in Irish parliament.
With more horses per head than any other country in Europe, the future for thousands of unwanted Irish horses looks bleak as charitable organizations struggle to find homes for the former stars of Ireland’s boom time equine dynasty.