Equine Rescue France is warning UK horse-lovers of the pitfalls of ‘rescuing’ French horses through so-called ‘French rescue’ websites. Purchasers are sought through emotional pleas made on these sites, claiming that the horses are in imminent danger of being transported on a horrendous journey to the Italian slaughterhouses and can only be saved by substantial donations by members of the public.
In fact, only a small proportion of these horses are destined for Italy – France has a huge number of abattoirs so most horses will slaughtered locally and this is the common method of dispatch in France for unwanted, unsound or elderly horses. In addition, many French low-end dealers have cottoned onto the ‘rescue’ trend and are using the situation to achieve inflated prices for horses that were never destined for slaughter in the first place.
Many ‘rescuers’ have discovered that when their horse arrives in the UK it has unforeseen health problems, from relatively minor conditions such as lice and heavy worm burdens, to badly deformed legs, serious melanomas and blown tendons. Some animals also have behavioural problems, making them difficult to handle or ride and aggressive to people and other horses.
Following the recent diagnosis of a case of Equine Infectious Anaemia in France, ERF are also concerned that dangerous equine diseases could be introduced to the UK via imported horses as adequate veterinary checks are rarely undertaken before importation.
ERF have witnessed very poor standards of care once the French horses have been purchased and are awaiting transport to the UK – with some animals left with inadequate water, hay and feed, and without bedding. There are also concerns about the welfare of these animals on the long journeys to the UK as ERF feel that transporting elderly, sick and deformed horses for long periods, without unloading them and allowing them to rest overnight is compromising their welfare.
ERF believes that the welfare of rescued horses is best served by rehoming them in their country of origin, so will continue rehoming the French horses they rescue in stringently checked French homes.
In the current financial climate many UK charities are keen to find good homes for their rescued horses, with World Horse Welfare, for example, reporting a rise in the number of rescued animals but a decrease in rehoming applications. ERF suggests that UK horselovers are best to rescue via a reputable UK charity as this is a more satisfactory option for the rescuer (as the animal will be properly assessed and treated before rehoming) and also ensures the best welfare for the animals concerned.