Page last updated at 16:30 GMT, Friday, 7 November 2008

Horses 'victims of credit crunch'

By Laura Maciver
BBC Scotland

A horse
Many owners can no longer afford to keep their horses

Animal charities have warned that horses are becoming the latest victims of the credit crunch.

A growing number are being abandoned or given away because their owners cannot afford feed and livery bills.

Juanita Wilson, who runs Mossburn Animal Centre near Lockerbie, said she had been been offered one horse every two days since July.

Her sanctuary, like many others around the United Kingdom, is now full to capacity.

Ms Wilson said: "Most of the owners are very upset, and even more upset when I explain that we are a a very small charity who can't afford to take on the financial burden of their elderly, retired and sometimes lame horses.

It is the legal duty of all animal owners to ensure the welfare of their animal
Mike Flynn
Scottish SPCA

"My advice to them, which shocks them because we're a sanctuary, is to have their vet humanely destroy them."

She said that that was a far kinder option than not feeding the horse properly or failing to give it proper veterinary care.

Ms Wilson added that she did not advise owners to sell their animal on the open market.

She said: "80% of all horses in Britain offered on the open market go for meat."

The Horse Trust said it had also been inundated with requests from worried horse owners.

Commit offence

The equine charity said that in the past three weeks, repossessions, job losses and cash shortages had led to more than 500 people making inquiries about having their horses rescued or rehomed.

The Scottish SPCA has seen a slight rise in the number of calls from horse and pony owners who wish to rehome or give away their animals.

Spokesman Mike Flynn said: "It is the legal duty of all animal owners to ensure the welfare of their animal.

"Regardless of the financial cost of ownership, owners must never simply abandon any animal.

"To do so is an offence in its own right."

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