Thousands of horses and ponies abandoned in Irish countryside as financial crisis bites...
Tens of thousands of horses and ponies are believed to have been abandoned in the Irish countryside as families struggle to cope with the financial meltdown.
Animal welfare inspectors have had to shoot some of the worst affected animals left badly weakened by exposure, starvation, sickness and injury.
With costs of feeding or keeping the horses in stables running to £26 per day, generations who have kept horses as a passion have no longer been able to afford to keep them.
Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen has pledged £12.8billion in spending cuts and tax increases over the next four years.
The austerity measures are expected to lead to a 10 per cent cut in the disposable income of Ireland's middle class, and worse for those on lower incomes, leaving them without the funds to care for domestic pets.
Irish law requires owners to have animals registered and microchipped, but it is not rigidly enforced.
Thousands of people are thought to have invested in horses or ponies during the boom years in Ireland, fuelled by a property bubble in the country.
Reckless breeding has also seen the horse population soar rapidly.
Many were kept in gardens, fenced-off building sites or on common land.
But the global financial meltdown has led to them being left to wander in the countryside as owners are unable to pay for their upkeep.
Joe Collins, president of the Veterinary Council of Ireland, estimates there are between 10,000 and 20,000 'surplus horses' across the country.
Ted Walsh, father of top steeplechase jockey Ruby Walsh, said that number could be as high as 100,000.
Thousands of the animals have been left to roam around the site of Dunsink tip, just miles from the centre of Dublin.
Many of them have been shot with a .32-calibre pistol by animal welfare inspectors as they were too weak to survive.
The Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has been forced to limit its stabling capacity in the hills around Dublin and slash its $500,000 budget for horses and ponies.
In 2008, it took in 26 sick or injured horses and ponies; last year that figure was 106, and so far it has cared for 115, according to the New York Times.
Some of the released animals are even recaptured and sold to unregulated horse markets for as little as £10 each.
Report - Daily Mail.