Councillors have adopted a new bye law that gives Laois County Council the right to seize stray horses, impound them and if unclaimed, dispose of or destroy them, with all costs to be borne by the owner.
If the owner is not found, the council can claim back its costs from the state. However, the council must have the permission of landowner before it can take any action.
The law was agreed despite protests from Cllr Padraig Fleming, who did not want to give the council the powere to dispose of horses found straying twice within twelve months.
“If a good healthy horse is found in the wrong location, it’s going to be put down. It’s not the horses fault, I think it is cruelty to horses, I would oppose it,” he said.
Cllr Willie Aird argued vociferously.
“How do you propose we look after them all? The donkey sanctury are crying out for people to foster donkeys. I would ask anybody to go to the dog pound, those dogs get every chance, they sit looking out at you from their cages, they have to be put down. It’s the hardest job but this is a vicious circle, unless you can control breeding,” he said.
Much argument followed on the definition of the word ‘dispose’, which it turned out can refer to selling or giving away, as well as slaughter.
County Manager Peter Carey said killing horses was a last resort but it was necessary to have the option.
“There is a proliferation of unwanted horses. Unfortunately there is a percentage of people who are irresponsible. We are putting a good framework in place to allow us to improve the service. It is a difficult area, that provision is a last resort. In fairness to staff, every effort is made to avoid it but there are situations whre you may need this provision,” he said.
The costs were then outlined of seizing horses, which including transport, stabling and destroying them, came to over €700 per horse.
Cllr Brendan Phelan suported the slaughter option.
“Twenty to thirty horses are taken from every sale and slaughtered. It’s the humane thing to do. They are being neglected. They are being left abandoned on the Slieve Blooms and on the roads. The owners should be prosecuted for cruelty,” he said.
Cllr Tom Mulhall suggested that owners have proof of grazing land in order to keep a horse.
“They should have land or a rent agreement for land. I don’t see why people can own three or four horses and live in a housing estate,” he said.