THE RSPCA has revealed it has dealt with 71 incidents of neglected and abandoned horses in Dorset during the pandemic - and is now bracing itself for a 'horse welfare catastrophe'.

The charity fears a crisis of neglected horses in the county as people struggle to care for them due to the financial downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite the microchipping of horses becoming compulsory in England this month, the RSPCA said the move did not go far enough alone to tackle irresponsible breeders and owners at the heart of the equine crisis.

They said the issue had 'now raged for eight years', with charity bosses now calling on the Government for financial support as donations to equine charities plummet.

Chris Sherwood, chief executive of the RSPCA said: “Autumn will create the perfect storm as grazing decreases and furlough ends - the deepening recession will see more owners struggling with costs of care leading to neglect and abandonment - yet people have been continuing to breed horses despite covid.

“Equine rescues, already reporting a sharp drop in funds, may start to go under as the financial situation bites, which will increase the burden on the RSPCA. We are calling on the Government to step in with financial support as they have for other charities affected by the pandemic and recognise that the vital services provided by the animal welfare sector are under huge strain.”

The charity revealed that nationally the number of horses in its care is already three times higher than at the start of the last recession in 2009 and has launched a month-long rehoming drive, 'Adoptober'.

Mr Sherwood added: “When microchipping came in for dogs the number of strays reduced by 20 per cent in four years, but unfortunately we just don’t think that’s going to happen for horses.

"Without rigorous enforcement and tough financial penalties, there is little to stop irresponsible horse owners continuing to breed and dump their animals."

The charity is now appealing to experienced horse owners to consider rehoming a rescue horse if they possibly can.

Under the current Covid rehoming protocols, anyone interested in fostering or adopting an animal from the RSPCA should visit the website to see which animals are available locally.

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