14 March 2023

RSPCA WA is alarmed by a recent surge in cruelty complaints about sick and neglected horses.

Calls about horses needing vet care have spiked by a huge 50 per cent this year. Meanwhile, reports of horses without adequate shelter are up 25 per cent compared to the same period in 2022.

RSPCA WA Inspector Manager Kylie Green said members of the public had flagged concerns for more than 200 horses since 1 January.

‘We’re seeing more and more horses who are underweight, have terrible overgrown hooves and dental issues,’ she said.

‘Some of these horses have been neglected so badly, and for so long, that they cannot be saved, which is just devastating. Our message to horse owners is to speak up now if you’re struggling. Ask for help from friends, family, your community, or a rescue group like RSPCA WA sooner rather than later.

‘If you’re finding it hard to afford medical care, talk to your vet to see what payment options are available. Don’t wait until it’s too late and your animal is suffering.’

Ms Green said RSPCA WA was concerned the upward trend in horse neglect could lead to more animal cruelty prosecutions, putting pressure on the charity’s already-stretched resources.

RSPCA WA has prosecuted two separate cases of chronic neglect this year involving six horses from the South West and Great Southern regions.

Animals seized as part of a prosecution can spend months or even years in care with RSPCA WA, as they are unable to be adopted until the case is finalised and the court forfeits their ownership.

The animal welfare organisation currently has 13 horses in care linked to animal cruelty investigations. And, with no long-term agistment facilities at its Malaga site, caring for the animals comes at a great cost.

‘The 13 horses currently in care have each spent an average of 245 days each with us,’ Ms Green said.

‘Agistment costs us around $600 a month per horse, while dental, behavioural, medical and farrier costs will easily hit $5000 per horse over the course of their care.

‘Once there is a court outcome, we face the challenging task of finding these animals a new home. We have two horses undergoing retraining at the moment, and they will be available for adoption soon.’

Ms Green said most of the complaints handled by RSPCA WA inspectors could be resolved through education, meaning horses could remain with their owners. But she emphasised RSPCA WA would not shy away from prosecuting owners in serious cases of neglect, to prevent further suffering.

‘We want to see owners reaching out for help long before it gets to that point where enforcement action is necessary,’ she said.

Large-scale complaints about horse welfare are investigated by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, while complaints about racehorses are referred to Racing and Wagering WA.