What We Do

Ireland's Equine Crisis

In 2010 the DSPCA has been called out to hundreds of abandoned horses throughout Dublin and surround areas. This is the most recent footage of us getting food to some of the more than 150 horses starving in Dunsink.



The DSPCA and other animal welfare groups around Ireland are dealing with a major increase in horse, pony and donkey cruelty and neglect cases.  Ireland is in the midst of an equine crisis. A number of factors cause more and more horses to suffer.

Reckless breeding during the Celtic Tiger years has caused Ireland to be inundated with unwanted equine. Added to this is the increasing cost of fodder and the diminishing value of equine.  Markets like the one in Smithfield means anyone can easily buy equine for as cheap at €8, irrespective of a person's lack of resources and knowledge of equine care.  Smithfield Market is unlicensed, unregulated, and completely unsuitable for horses and the DSPCA has worked to shut down these types of markets for years.

Legislation is clear: every equine needs to have a passport and microchip which forces accountability and traceability, but without sufficient resources put in place to enforce the legislation, more and more horses are being neglected and abandoned. 


The DSPCA calls on Racing Industry and Authorities to work together to address Horse Crisis

The DSPCA is working closely with Department of Agriculture, Department of Environment, local authorities, other animal welfare organistions and leaders in the industry to address the key issues that have lead to an equine crisis in this country. We believe that a cross-industry group should work together to ensure that the issues that lead to a horse crisis in Ireland are addressed swiftly and effectively with the onset of the worst of the winter weather.

The current situation, which has been documented thoroughly in the national and international media, came about through the lack of enforcement of legislation and prevalence of horses and over-breeding over the past 10 years.

DSPCA believes that the follow measures are required:
1. Closure of unlicensed, unregulated horse markets such as Smithfield
2. Setting up of an amnesty programme (multi agency) whereby owners who cannot rehome or afford horses can surrender their animals (criteria to be determined)
3. Rehoming programme for impounded or surrendered horses (with necessary fees associated for veterinary, licensing and passports)
4. The extension of Responsible Horse Ownership Education activities
5. The creation of centralized database for microchips, horses that are not chipped or licensed need to be impounded by local authorities or authorized officers

Jimmy Cahill, CEO, DSPCA said: “We in the DSPCA recognise the need for a cross-industry response to the equine crisis in this country and we hope to deepen our workings with the Department of Agriculture, local authorities and key international players in the horse-racing industry to implement the necessary steps to end equine suffering in this country.”

Follow this link to an Open letter sent to Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith on 5th August 2010.

We have seen three different categories in this Equine Crisis:

Intentional Neglect & Abandonment

We are seeing hundreds of equine left in fields, parks and waste ground around Dublin and the equine are kept in horrific conditions by owners who don't care about the needs of the animals. In many cases horses have been abandoned by owners who can no longer afford to look after them.  These animals are starving, have no fresh water, are injured or sick, are lame due to leg and hoof injuries and left in fields and waste ground in unsafe conditions.  

Everyday the DSPCA is dealing with heart wrenching rescue operations for abused and neglected horses and ponies.  In the last 12 months we have encountered equine dying in horrific pain and numerous dead horses decomposing all round Dublin.  Some dying and dead horses have been simply dumped by their owners, dragged from trailers or horse boxes and left so that the owner won't have to deal with veterinary costs or the risk of prosecution.  We have even seen cases of horses being attacked and eaten by dogs, with the horses lying for days in agony ignored by their owners.  These horses are not microchipped or registered so owners cannot be prosecuted for their wanton and cruel neglect.

abandoned horse

Intentional Cruelty

We have also seen a disturbing rise in the number of intentional cruelty cases.  Horses & ponies have been deliberately hurt and killed by people.  Animals have beaten and injured. In one instance, a pony was run over by a car. The car then reversed back to ensure they inflicted as much damage and pain as possible. In another case a dying horse was abandoned by 6 six men and covered in hay and left to die. Youths were later seen setting the hay and horse on fire.  Easy access to these gentle animals makes it effortless for disturbed individuals to victimise them.

Neglect due to Lack of Understanding of Equine Care

Horses are being tied up using ropes, chains or ill-fitting harnesses and bridles.  Most often the areas that the animals are being kept in are not secure or safe for the horses or members of the public.  In a lot of cases these owners are horse lovers and they don't mean to harm the animals but they don't have the knowledge and resources to look after them and in turn the animals suffer.

The owners of these equine are not providing shelter for these animals as they don't own the land and are not permitted to erect stables or shelters.  The owners don't know enough about medical treatment of these animals like vaccinations, hoof care, worming treatments, diseases, etc or can't afford them.   Horses are not being fed correctly and do not have access to fresh water. Owners don't know about horses needing extra feed, water or shelter in winter. 

Nothing will change without Your help!

The DSPCA will try to deal with all cases but there are serious financial repercussions to the rescue and care of these horses. Every horse that we take in costs an average of €3,000 to treat.

We know that there are hundreds of horses in similar distress but as the only welfare group rescuing these horses in Dublin our finances are stretched to the limit. Our shelter is full and our staff are overwhelmed.  In 2009 we built extra stables, but it is not enough to help these beautiful creatures.  We are working flat out to deal with the calls that are coming in from concerned members of the public about horses and ponies who have been left to die in fields, waste ground, lots and the side of the road.  It is only a matter of time before members of the public are hurt by animals wandering in front of cars or other types of accidents.

Our staff are working with Councils, Government and Gardai to try and deal with this situation and our education officer is working with communities and schools to educate school children on equine care and the financial responsibilities of owning a horse or pony but as a charity we have limited resources. We are urgently appealing to the public for financial assistance to help us to continue our work.

To report a cruelty or neglect case or to make a donation to the DSPCA, please ring 01 499 4700.

Lobby the Government

We are asking for your help in lobbying Government to ensure that this Equine Crisis is addressed as quickly as possible. They need to monitor all horses to make sure they are being well cared for in safe locations, are licensed and microchipped correctly.  The Government also needs to close down equine markets like Smithfield and ban urban horse breeding until all of the equine currently in existence have been rescued and re-homed.

Below you will find details on how to contact your local TDs and Senators.

Please take the time to make representation and show how important this issue to you.

Contacting your public representatives

Here is a spreadsheet containing all the contact details of TD's & Senators - December 2010

Below is a link to the Oireachtas database which gives you all the contact numbers and email address for TDs.


Below is a link to the Oireachtas database which gives you all the contact numbers and email address for Senate Members.


All telephone calls to TDs are logged and your local representative will be aware of the number of calls relating to a particular issue.


Contacting Your County or City Council to report Stray Horses in your area

County & City Council Control of Horses Information,


Back to top |