Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Letter sent to the politicians debating the horse cruelty crisis in Ireland tomorrow in the Dail
Re: The situation for horse welfare, cruelty, impounding and prosecution, for consideration for the Dail debate tomorrow.
The system is that stray horses are reported to the guards, who call the Animal Collection Service (ACS). The ACS are given €980 per horse (by the Kilkenny & Carlow councils and around that figure in each county). They are encouraged not to keep them over night in the pound (as it is considered expensive!) and take them straight to be slaughtered or sold on for research or oversees) If they put the animal to sleep, the animal collection service are paid more for disposing of them.
Any of the animal rescue services could do a lot with that sort of money – in the way of care, rehabilitation, rehoming, wider education. They could extend the horses' life and quality of life and cost considerably less to the state than they do now. There should be a FOI circulated to establish who is connected to the ACS and benefiting from the ACS’ business. I remember seeing that some politicians share directorships of companies with one of the directors at least.
The problem came to the attention of the public, two years ago, when the ACS got the Carlow/Kilkenny dog pound and the Ennis dog pound. It came to light that the ACS had the Cork Horse Pound and various other horse control companies around the country under different names. They are actually registered with Companies House in Riga, Latvia, where the biggest animal body parts factory is in Europe. They have no website or other presence on the internet or any physical office. They have no rehoming experience or animal welfare/law/care experience. No companies like that should be receiving public contracts with so little accountability (hundreds of thousands of euro of public contracts annually, limited only by how many horses they can seize). I bring your attention to the 28 horses in Kilkenny who were in good condition, microchipped and passported who the guards, with the ACS and several DAFM vets seized illegally. A week later, when the judge said the owners should be allowed to check their welfare (as pregnant mares/foals/stallions were all travelled together – against the DAFM’s own rules) it turned out that the animals had already been killed. Following the emaciated horse who was confiscated in Temple Bar three weeks ago, it was only allowed live and a chance at rehoming as so many people were following the story. Otherwise it would have been transported at once to the abbatoir.
This is a big business and we need an animal welfare system not geared to protect the major abusers. In fact the only people threatened with prosecution recently have been the rescues who are looking after animals that they cannot account for. This is unacceptable that very stretched shelters that open their doors to animals in trouble (absorbing all the veterinary fees, all the feed costs, all the gelding, microchipping and bedding costs as well as the attention to where it can be successfully rehomed) are threatened with closure and confiscation of animals. How did we end up with an ACS, effectively a glorified 'knackers lorry', smug with the power that they are the only group legitimately allowed to pick up stray animals, without any intention of looking after them?
So, the most pressing matter is the council-run dog pound tenders and horse control contracts. Please we need a command at government level that the contracts must go to not-for-profit animal orientated organizations. The tenders are currently being written in such a way as to exclude all animal organizations.
Currently the Kilkenny council is refusing to take a key clause out of the public tender document for the animal pounds. The clause says that only an organization with ‘2 similar contracts’ is eligible to apply. (Previous applicants assumed it meant similar in terms of animal related contracts but actually it means financial contracts) This needs to be taken out with immediate effect as the tenders are coming up again and no welfare organization will be compliant, as they don’t have major public contracts and money behind them. This leaves only the Animal Collection Services as compliant.
If we are not careful they will get the 250,000 per annum for pound management and warden services plus they get paid for disposing of the bodies and also they get paid again (1. If they sell the horses and dogs to research companies to use for testing (this is also a possible reason why all the 600 animals from the Charles River Laboratory are being rehomed in England (a changing story of beagles, mixed breed dogs and cats) as they might provide the evidence we need that the ACS are profiting from stray dogs and extending their suffering by supplying laboratories.
Please look into that FOI that Charles River Laboratory has so far been allowed to refuse, regarding the tests done on animals. They must be bad if they fear attacks on the staff as a result. Again the company is protected, rather than the animals, even when they have been convicted of 4 welfare non-compliances in the worst categories. 2. If the ACS are shipping seized animals oversees – the last Carlow/Kilkenny tender went to Four Seasons trading as ACS who are registered in Riga, Latvia, home of the biggest body parts factory in Europe.
A new piece of legislation has been circulated to shelters forcing them to sign a commitment to put animals to sleep and not keep them indefinitely. If they do not sign, they will be no longer eligible for their already-minimal annual state support. This means funding will be withdrawn for being a no-kill shelter. Although there may be ways around this for shelters, it is a worrying policy that penalizes organizations that rehome in favour of private firms that kill animals.
The existing legislation needs to be used to prosecute the abusers. Only two prosecutions this year and hundreds of cases of cruelty. For example, Charles River Laboratory head office could easily afford to pay a fine for their non compliance and cover the vets and rehoming costs for the dogs and cats. There is no reason why shelters should have to cover everything.
Also, please organize funding for proper monitored traveler horse projects and safe tracks. There are people qualified in horse care and fitness training that would be willing to educate and support people in improving the care of their horses and ponies.
There is also room for educational courses in equine care in schools and responsible pet ownership in general. I know of many people who would deliver this and that would stem the flow of neglected horses and dogs to straying and then county pounds.
Many thanks for getting your head around the complexity of the problem and not just thinking it is for the public to try harder and the guards to exercise their authority to bring convictions. So far, they are not even on the animal's side. The breeders, the one’s retiring horses and dogs from ‘sport’, the research companies, the animal (carcass) collection companies and no doubt some in government are profiting time and again from the suffering and the current system.
Getting Animal Welfare out of the hands of the Department of Agriculture would be the best thing as a department that promotes and benefits from farming animals cannot be fully vested in their good treatment or even recognizing their rights to the five freedoms. Their value will always be first and foremost monetary.
Give the public contracts to the organizations that have the explicit mission statement to respond to animals in crisis, sick or lost; that can collect, rescue, revive, educate, rehabilitate and rehome – all well within the budget currently being paid out to private control companies.
Many thanks, Frances