UK equine charities - World Horse Welfare, The BHS, Blue Cross, Bransby Horses, Horse World, Redwings and the RSPCA - have released a joint statement about the BBC Panorama programme on Monday night.
"As welfare charities we were disturbed and deeply concerned by Monday’s (19/07/2021) BBC Panorama programme. It highlighted a number of issues that are not solely connected to racing, many of which the welfare charities have long been trying to bring to public and Government attention.
It showed horses being transported for slaughter over many miles, across country borders and in some cases while suffering with injuries such as severe lameness, in direct contravention of horse transport regulations. It also showed falsification of passports and failures in the equine ID and traceability system and the concerning treatment of horses in a slaughterhouse.
The racing world can help to drive improvements and we understand the British Horseracing Authority and other representatives of the industry including the Horse Welfare Board will be meeting to discuss the programme in more detail. However, we believe there are wider questions that need to be answered: why did it take undercover footage to reveal these issues when CCTV is now standard in abattoirs? Can we have faith that horses sent to abattoirs will be treated humanely? How can our ID system be shored up to prevent fraud and profiteering from these vulnerable animals at the end of their lives?
We would encourage all equine owners to make plans and provision for their own animal’s end of life care and we are calling on the Government through Defra’s Action Plan for Animal Welfare to act on promises to improve our Equine ID system – making sure the system is fit for purpose, enforceable and enforced – and ensure welfare is paramount both in horse transport and during their end-of-life care.
Please see our recent Britain’s Horse Problem Report for more detail on many of the issues raised by the programme".
The Animal Behaviour and Training Council is the regulatory body that represents animal trainers and animal behaviour therapists to both the public and legislative bodies. It is supported by Defra, the veterinary profession, major animal charities and practitioners alike.
The ABTC sets and maintains the standards of knowledge and practical skills needed to be an animal trainer or animal behaviour therapist, and it maintains national registers of appropriately qualified animal trainers and animal behaviourists.
The ABTC is the only charity dedicated to promoting the welfare of animals undergoing training or behaviour therapy. The ABTC believes that it cannot be right to cause any animal pain in order to motivate it to carry out desired behaviours when humane methods are not only available but produce better long-term results.
Find out more about the Council and its practitioners here.
The Moorland Mousie Trust is a small, local charity founded in 2000 with the aim of preventing foals from being removed from the moor and sent to the meat market. Since those early days, the work of the trust has moved on to encompass all aspects of Exmoor pony welfare.
The Trust’s primary aim is to promote and protect the endangered rare-breed Exmoor pony. Their main work focuses on providing a future for the excess foals that are removed from the moor each year during the annual pony herd gathering.
The Exmoor Pony Centre, located in the heart of the Exmoor National Park and owned by the Moorland Mousie Trust, was opened to the public in 2006. The Centre, run by a small team of dedicated staff and volunteers, is the hub of all their activity with the Exmoor Ponies. It provides a permanent and specialised base for the foals when they arrive straight off the moor and is home to some 20 permanent residents.
Staff and volunteers work with each foal, using natural horsemanship techniques, to familiarise the youngsters with human handling, wearing a headcollar and being led. All foals in the Trust’s care are wormed and the colt foals are castrated. After completing 'foal school' the youngsters are available for rehoming with either a foster home or on a conservation grazing scheme.
To date, the charity has helped secure the future of over 500 Exmoor ponies!
A Welsh man has been handed a suspended jail term after failing to meet the needs of 91 ponies and causing dozens of them – plus three cockerels – to suffer at his farm.
Evan Lloyd Evans, of Chwilog, Pwllheli, pleaded guilty to 10 Animal Welfare Act offences and was sentenced at Llandudno Magistrates’ Court on 21st June.
In addition, Evans was banned from keeping horses and poultry for 20 years and ordered to pay a £1,000 fine and a £128 victim surcharge.
The prosecution followed a large multi-agency operation at Evans’ farm in September 2020, which was supported by NEWC Chair and Redwings' Head of Welfare and Behaviour, Nic de Brauwere.
RSPCA inspector Keith Hogden found dozens of horses and other animals kept in outbuildings, barns and fields in highly inappropriate conditions, with faeces everywhere – and even a bucket of dead rats!
In total Evans kept 91 ponies in illegal conditions which were unhygienic and hazardous. Sadly, three had to be put to sleep during the operation due to the extent of their suffering.
Veterinary opinion was that dozens of the horses had suffered unnecessarily, including two who had not been given appropriate care for a broken leg and lameness respectively.
Six of the ponies also required treatment for parasites, while another had a severe facial deformity which had gone unchecked.
Shockingly, 28 had not received appropriate dental care, while a further eight were judged to be suffering from lack of hoof care.
RSPCA Inspector Keith Hogden said: “We’re indebted to our partners at North Wales Police, World Horse Welfare, Redwings and the British Horse Society, who worked tirelessly with us on this huge job, which was clearly so important for the continued welfare of the animals we rescued.
“I am just relieved that following the intervention of a number of agencies, many of these will now have a second chance of forever home happiness. It is a great example of partnership working which is testimony to what can be achieved together for animal welfare.”
A rescued horse from Redwings Horse Sanctuary has found a loving new home at the farm of wildlife television presenter Kate Humble.
The moment Gilbert, a handsome six-year-old cob, arrived at his new home was filmed for the latest episode of Escape to the Farm, which aired last week on Channel 5.
The series follows life on Kate’s farm, ‘Humble by Nature’, in Monmouthshire, Wales, and this episode captured Gilbert being led from the Redwings horsebox and meeting his new Guardian Sarah Stephens.
Sarah had been searching for a companion for horse Rags, who lives at Kate’s farm and who had sadly lost his stablemate. After enquiring with Redwings, the charity’s Rehoming team in Norfolk set about finding a perfect new friend for Rags.
Gilbert's mother Florence was rescued from horrific conditions as part of a large-scale rescue operation. However, as he was born following the rescue, he has never known anything other than love and care and was chosen specifically by the team for the important job of being a friend to Rags because of his calm and friendly nature.
Having arrived at his new home in April, Gilbert is settling well into his new surroundings.
Kate said: “Finding the perfect companion for a horse who has lost his stablemate of many years was not something I expected to be easy. But the knowledge and experience of the staff at Redwings helped us find Gilbert. He and our Rags struck up an instant rapport and Gilbert has become well and truly part of the farm family.
“We are so grateful for the careful consideration that Redwings gave to allow us to rehome this lovely horse and, in so doing, support the work of this excellent charity.”
Redwings has been rehoming rescued horses since 2005. Due to Covid safety measures, the charity is currently rehoming just non-ridden companion ponies and unbacked project horses - the latter receive basic training but are suitable to be trained to be ridden by experienced Guardians once in their new home.
Despite the changes, Redwings experienced its most successful rehoming year ever in 2020 and recently rehomed its 100th pony since the onset of the pandemic.
Rachel Angell, Redwings’ Head of Norfolk Equine Operations and Rehoming, said: “We’re absolutely thrilled that Gilbert is enjoying his new home – and has become a television star to boot! Thank you to Kate and Sarah for highlighting the sheer joy of rehoming a rescued horse and the importance of companion ponies.
“Companions not only provide invaluable friendship for another horse, but they can also act as calming travel buddies or can simply be wonderful pets in their own right. When you rehome from a registered charity like Redwings, you’re not only giving a second start in life to a rescued horse but you’re also providing space at the Sanctuary for another horse in need to be brought to safety.
“We wish Gilbert, Rags, Sarah and Kate many happy years together!”
Episodes of Escape to the Farm are available to watch on My5 at www.channel5.com.
To find out more about Redwings’ rehoming scheme, visit redwings.org.uk/rehoming.
If you and your family have decided you’d like to give a home to a horse or pony from Blue Cross, please have a look on their rehoming pages to see horses currently available for loan or potentially to own.
Blue Cross have a range of horses available for rehoming; from miniature Shetlands to cobs to thoroughbreds. They have companions and ridden horses and ponies, both backed and unbacked, and a range of ages from foals to veteran.
Blue Cross rehomes horses on a monitored loan, which means they check in to see how they’re doing from time to time to make sure that they – and you – are happy.
It is possible to transfer the ownership of Blue Cross horses and ponies after a successful loan period. This enables even more homeless horses needing help to be taken in.
Blue Cross are also always in need of support yards, preferably located within an hour’s drive of their centres, where horses are provided with temporary care and support on a private yard until a suitable permanent home is found. If you are interested in becoming a support yard rather than loaning a horse please visit their volunteering pages for further details.
We are thrilled to announce that Hopton Rehab and Homing Centre (HRH) has joined NEWC as new members.
Established in July 2017, HRH has dealt with a variety of equines needing extensive physical and behavioural rehabilitation. Their team of Trustees - all of whom are experienced in the equine industry and share a passion for horse welfare and rehabilitation - has built a great reputation for a sympathetic approach that allows horses and ponies to adjust and develop in their own time, before being carefully matched with prospective new homes.
Find out more about their work here: hoptonrehabhoming.org
NEWC is delighted to welcome Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust (DPHT) as a new member of NEWC. The DPHT is a registered charity, established in 2005, working tirelessly to secure the future of the native Dartmoor Pony while inspiring and connecting people with Dartmoor’s wildlife, landscape and heritage.
The central tenet of DPHT’s work is to deliver innovative education and conservation opportunities so young people and adults can learn more about the plight of the Moorland Pony, their crucial role in its ecology and role in mankind’s place on the landscape.
They work closely with conservation bodies like the National Trust and local Wildlife Trusts to place ponies for conservation grazing, and with other stakeholders and pony-keepers to ensure their involvement in conserving the Dartmoor Pony.
The DPHT's bespoke visitor and education centre at Parke Estate is open to the public on selected days throughout the year.
Find out more about their work here: dpht.co.uk
We are increasingly seeing instances where well-meaning animal lovers wrongly accuse charities over social media of failing to act, resulting in rising tensions and, in some cases, leading to people taking the law into their own hands to ‘rescue’ equines which they feel charities are ignoring.
The National Equine Welfare Council, comprised of 75 member organisations of which 40 are charities keeping equines - such as the RSPCA, World Horse Welfare, Redwings, Blue Cross, Bransby Horses, The Horse Trust, The Donkey Sanctuary and The British Horse Society - work tirelessly to protect equines across the country and for seven years have been facing an ‘equine crisis’ which has seen an unprecedented number of animals coming into their care (2347 admitted in 2019).
It is estimated that there are currently 7294 equines in the care of rescue organisations, putting huge pressure on charities’ resources. We are all doing our best for equines in difficult circumstances.
In many cases, when issues are raised on social media, charities are already working, often together, to resolve the situation and improve welfare through existing animal welfare law. NEWC understands that it is frustrating when it appears well-known welfare organisations are not taking action and don’t share information about what they are doing, but there are very good reasons for this.
Charities have to be careful that anything they say doesn’t jeopardise future court cases, which could result in those who have caused suffering to animals escaping justice.
Charities must work within the law and have NO legal power to remove animals without an owner’s consent. Equines can only be removed under the Animal Welfare Act by police, local authority appointed inspectors or appointed staff from the APHA (In Scotland the SSPCA inspectors have these powers) and only with the approval of a veterinary surgeon. If the appointed veterinary surgeon does not approve removal the animals must, by law, remain in situ with attending charities then only able to monitor the situation.
To protect the integrity of any investigation, essential for successful legal action, removal of animals by an authorised Inspector is done on the advice of a vet who has carried out the necessary examinations. Failure to follow the correct procedure could result in staff and organisations being prosecuted for theft. These actions could also jeopardise any legal action to protect the animals, or result in animals having to be returned.
Charities are very restricted in what they can say publicly about individual cases due to strict data protection laws. These laws protect all UK citizens’ privacy as well as ensure that the legal process is fair, essential to securing a successful outcome. Breaching these laws could result in animal welfare charities incurring fines of several million pounds.
The Animal Welfare Acts are very effective at allowing animals to be protected from cruelty and neglect and helping animals that have already suffered. Where the laws need to be improved, we campaign to change them, as seen with the Control of Horses Act and sentencing changes in England and Scotland. If the law is used to its full potential we can also work with owners who are willing to make welfare improvements but still have the ability to act if this doesn’t work. This approach aims to help all animals in a situation and not just those we can remove.
Often charities are aware of welfare concerns and will be working with owners to resolve issues in the first instance while being mindful that legal action may follow if welfare concerns persist. Please be assured that in many cases work is taking place behind the scenes, sometimes involving multiple charities, but they simply cannot speak publicly about it.
There have been instances recently where NEWC members have arranged for the police and a vet to attend to remove an animal on welfare grounds, but find they have already been taken. Although such actions can be well-meaning, it can have the unfortunate consequence that the owner will not face justice and could go on to cause suffering to more animals.
Where equines do need urgent help, it is important that they are removed legally and put into specialist care. The chances for survival and a good life can often depend on how these animals are treated in the early days after rescue. Cases of further suffering and even death have been seen when animals were removed illegally.
Just like all animal lovers, we too are upset by terrible images and videos on social media, and there’s no doubt many need urgent attention. Be aware that some information on social media is not always true. Sadly some cases shown in pictures and videos are not accurately reported or are not from the case in question and achieve little more than causing upset and frustration.
Anyone with welfare concerns about equines should contact our members in the first instance. There’s a list of numbers to report welfare concerns to on our website. Encouraging people to ‘bombard’ charities on social media or tie up emergency phone lines reporting the same incident costs charities vital time and money that could be spent helping animals and also stops other emergencies from being reported.
It’s great to see horse lovers’ passion and enthusiasm for helping equines. We share this, and do the best we can with limited resources- animal welfare charities receive no government funding. We’d encourage organisations and individuals interested in helping horses, ponies and donkeys to become members of the National Equine Welfare Council – which is a great way of sharing expertise and working together to tackle the equine crisis and other welfare issues.
You could also help by giving a loving forever home to one of the over 2500 horses, ponies and donkeys available for re-homing in the care of our member charities at the moment – which will free up a much-needed rescue space for other animals who need urgent help.
Member charities of NEWC have collaborated to produce two practical guides; one to help equine owners find ways to cut costs without compromising on care and another on making the difficult decision to rehome a horse, pony or donkey.
Equine charities are continuing to receive large numbers of calls from owners seeking alternative homes for their animals. There are over one million horses, ponies and donkeys in the UK and the charitable sector has limited space available and must prioritise welfare and rescue cases.
“Of course we want to be able to help every horse,” said Nic De Brauwere, Chairman of NEWC. “But with limited funds and resources available we have to prioritise on those in greatest need. By showing how outgoings can be reduced without compromising on the horse’s quality of life we aim to help owners in making the decision to keep their horse and help prevent inadvertent neglect or abandonment. Otherwise, we can help them safely navigate the rehoming route.”
NEWC has produced two detailed guides, both of which can be downloaded below. In situations where owners are considering rehoming their equines because they can no longer afford to keep them the ‘Cut cost not care’ guide suggests where sufficient savings may be made to help them keep their animal without making any compromise on health or welfare.
If care costs are still too great and rehoming remains the only option NEWC’s ‘Rehome responsibly’ guide helps equine owners consider the options whether selling, loaning or retiring. Euthanasia is also discussed in cases where quality of life is diminishing and rehoming solutions are not appropriate.
“We hope the guides will provide support for horse owners who are facing tough decisions this winter, to help to keep more horses and ponies well cared for and secure.” Said Nic.
The guides can be downloaded here: