Horse owners “a law unto themselves”

Council staff have been subject to intimidation by horse owners unwilling to comply with the law, according to Westmeath's veterinary officer Seán O'Laoide.

Speaking at Monday's county council meeting, he said horses remain a huge problem in urban areas, and that council staff attempting to remove horses from inappropriate areas are often accused of stealing the animals.

"It is a cultural issue; we have a lot of confrontation and it is dangerous for our warden and staff. We have even impounded horses and had break-ins and horses stolen," he said.

Under the council's 2012 bylaws, horses may not be kept in 'exclusion areas' including urban parts of Athlone and Mullingar, with the exception of equestrian centres, riding schools, or land with adequate pasture and shelter.

Stray horses can be seized by the council if they are wandering on public land, are on private land without permission of the landowner, cause danger to property or persons, or cause a nuisance.

Cllr John Dolan said there are horses being kept "totally inappropriately" in urban settings.

"It is the same people over and over again. If it happened in the agricultural sector people just wouldn't be allowed to keep them," he said.

Cllr Mick Dollard added that he regularly sees horses on the street, by the canal, or tied to trees, and that "certain families do their own thing and are a law unto themselves".


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