This emaciated and pregnant mare named June was dumped in a field near Swanley, Kent (Image: RSPCA)
Figures hit a record high last year with the RSPCA rescuing more than 1,000 dumped horses, and the emergency shows no signs of easing.
This emaciated and pregnant mare named June was dumped in a field near Swanley, Kent, at the weekend and is so sick that vets are worried she will not pull through.
The nine-year-old horse, suffering from a heavy worm burden, was not microchipped and the RSPCA fears it will never track down her owners.
A new microchipping law announced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs today will not only make it easier to trace people who dump horses but also help reunite lost and stolen animals with owners.
Under the new rules, equines of all ages will have to be chipped from October 2020.
The procedure – already compulsory for dogs – will cost around £25-£30.
Owners who fail to chip their horses or ponies will face compliance notices from local authorities and, as a last resort, a £200 maximum fine.
RSPCA assistant director of external affairs David Bowles welcomed the new legislation: “We are delighted regulations to ensure horses of all ages should be microchipped are set to become a reality in England.
The RSPCA rescued almost 1,000 horses last year and a huge majority were not microchipped, making it virtually impossible to trace the owners
RSPCA assistant director of external affairs David Bowles
"Until now, only horses born after 2009 had to be microchipped, but this law change will mean that all horses will have to be microchipped and details will go onto a central database which can be accessed by local authorities and other agencies.
“The RSPCA rescued almost 1,000 horses last year and a huge majority were not microchipped, making it virtually impossible to trace the owners.
“We believe this extension of the current rules on compulsory microchipping will go some way to help find those irresponsible owners that abandon their horses as well as helping owners be reunited with their animals that have been stolen.
“If this law is to work, it is absolutely vital that it is properly enforced and if this happens it could be a crucial step in tackling the heartbreaking crisis facing horses in England and Wales.”
Mickey the foal who was found abandoned in a Leicestershire park (Image: RSPCA)
The RSPCA says the sight of sick and injured horses, such as Mickey the foal (pictured), who was found abandoned in a Leicestershire park earlier this year without any form of identification, has become an all too frequent heartbreaking experience for the charity's inspectors.
To date, horses born after 2009 have to be chipped, but the new regulations will mean all animals – except wild ponies – will have to be included on the new Central Equine Database, allowing police and local authorities to trace owners.
Animal Welfare Minister Lord Gardiner said: “The Government shares the British public’s high regard for animal welfare and it is completely unacceptable that hundreds of horses and ponies are left abandoned every year by irresponsible owners.
“That is why we have today laid new regulations in Parliament requiring horses to be microchipped.
"This will bolster the ability of local authorities and police to identify abandoned animals, ensuring these beautiful creatures receive the care they deserve and that those who mistreat them will face the consequences.”
The British Horse Society (BHC) has been working with Defra on the issue and believes the new regulations will also be a safeguard for tackling potential disease outbreaks.
Jeanette Allen, chairwoman of the BHC, said: “This is a huge advance for the UK’s horses, ponies and donkeys.
"It will not only enable irresponsible owners to be held properly accountable for the treatment of their animal, it will also aid in reuniting owners with lost or stolen horses and significantly supports the UK’s efforts to protect our equines from disease outbreaks.”