AN East Lancashire horse charity has said that the UK is on the verge of an ‘equine crisis.’

Amanda Berry of Horses and Ponies Protection Agency (HAPPA) in Briercliffe said all major equine rescue and rehoming organisations in England and Wales were under immense pressure due to the increasing number of horses and ponies needing their help.

It is estimated that 6,000 horses are currently at risk and animal welfare agencies fear tha,t with the threat of a harsh winter, they will find themselves physically and financially unable to cope with demand.

Amanda said: “We have most definitely seen an increase in abandoned and mistreated animals and it is only going to get worse.

“The root cause of the problem is over-breeding and irresponsible dealers.

“Because there are now so many ‘low breed’ horses, people can pick one up for around £5.

“The low cost encourages people to become horse owners, even if they are ill-equipped to deal with them.

“We see cases of parents who have bought horses for their children without realising the cost, dedication and commitment needed to raise a horse properly.”

The minimum cost of keeping a horse is around £60 per week but this does not include veterinary bills, cost of land to keep the animal or any other additional costs.

Amanda said: “It’s around £250 to castrate a horse and because people are buying them for far, far less than that, they don’t see castration as making financial sense — or perhaps cannot afford it.

“We then end up with even more horses that are without homes and adequate care.”

Fly grazing is also noted as a huge problem and something that HAPPA believe is on the increase.

Fly grazing is a term used to describe animals, most notably horses, that are left to graze on private land without permission.

Landowners have a duty of care towards any animal on their property and cannot apply for a passport (which would allow them to transport the animal or send it for slaughter) for 14 days. Because of this they immediately become responsible for the welfare of the animal and if they break that duty of care, they can be prosecuted.

Often, fly grazers collect their animals shortly before the 14 days is up and abandon them elsewhere.

“Currently, in the UK, fly grazing is a civil matter and we believe there needs to be criminal legislation in place so that fly grazers can be targeted and prosecuted,” Amanda said. “There was a case in Wales recently in which a farmer woke up to find 50 horses on his land.

“The law in Wales has had to be changed but we are lagging behind in England and it needs to be addressed.”