Page last updated at 13:11 GMT, Tuesday, 17 November 2009

'Horses destroyed' in recession

Stella King at Canterbury Horse Rescue
Stella King said her charity was full but she is still being asked to take horses

Horse charities in Kent say they are inundated with requests to take in animals which their owners can no longer afford because of the recession.

But refuges are already full and facing financial pressure and say horses they cannot take are abandoned or destroyed.

"It is getting really bad," said Stella King from Canterbury Horse Rescue. "People are phoning up on a daily basis asking charities to take them in."

"It is straining the charity's resources very seriously."

She said the charity needed £1,500 a month to survive, plus the cost of feed, hay and straw.

With 21 horses in its care the sanctuary is full, but Ms King said owners had been known to leave animals overnight.

'Tied to gate'

"I have had them tied to the gate, so now I leave the field gate open at night.

"In the recession people have realised they have not got enough money to feed themselves, let alone the horses."

Sara Ross, of The Horse Refuge at Tenterden, said it cost up to £5,000 a year to keep a horse and there had been a dramatic increase in animals being handed over or abandoned in the past year.

"The number of horses in trouble increases on a daily basis and it is very upsetting," she said.

The refuge, which cares for 50 horses, is attempting to raise £600,000 to buy its land and buildings but Ms Ross said donations had also dried up because of the recession.

The chariman of the National Equine Council says some owners may have to destroy their animals

"It's a bit of a disaster all round," she said.

Ms Ross said she had no figures for the number of horses destroyed or abandoned.

"Unfortunately, we know this is happening." she said.

"People are leaving them to take their chances in the field, but in many cases they become like walking skeletons in the winter.

"Otherwise, they go into the animal food chain.

"It is a solution but I don't think a horse should lose its life unnecessarily if it is fit and healthy.

"It is a tragedy that it has got to die."

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