THE RSPCA is rescuing an abused, neglected or abandoned horse or donkey every other day in the North-East and North Yorkshire, figures have revealed.
The charity said the region is in the “grip of an equine crisis” after receiving more than 3,000 calls from people in 2013 concerned about the welfare of the animals – a rise of more than 60 per cent over five years - with the most alerts coming from Durham.
In Durham, the calls resulted in 77 horses and donkeys being rescued, representing a 450 per cent increase since 2009.
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In both North Yorkshire and Northumberland the charity has seen the number of the animals it rescues every year increase by more than ten times over the same period, taking in 92 horses in those counties in 2013.
RSPCA chief inspector Cathy Hyde said: “Over the past five years there has been a marked, and very worrying, increase in equine neglect and abuse.
“This is witnessed on a daily basis by frontline staff.
“This disturbing trend in neglect seems to be affecting equines more than any other animal that we deal with.”
The charity said one such case in the region involved a 14-year-old piebald horse called Cracker Jack, that was found in a muddy ditch by a busy road in York, with no food or water.
The horse had worms, his hooves were in a poor condition and his tethering chain had got so tangled he was unable to move.
Police seized him and he went to the RSPCA’s specialist equine centre, Felledge, near Chester-le-Street for rehabilitation. His owner was convicted of welfare offences and disqualified from keeping horses for five years.
After taking part in a rescue pony show, Cracker Jack has been taken on by a family from East Yorkshire and now competes on the showing circuit.
The charity says the spike in horse and donkey neglect and abuse could stem falling prices for the animals over the past five years, combined with rising feed and care costs.
A spokeswoman said: “Although it is tempting to blame the economic situation, we have no real idea of why the number of abandonments is increasing overall, but it is so frustrating to think that the messages about caring for animals just aren’t getting through to some people.”
For every horse in one of the charity’s centres, there are seven waiting for a place.
For details about RSPCA open days showcasing its rescue horses visit rspca.org.uk/homesforhorses