Galway gardai attending scenes of accidents involving stray horses are currently being left to deal with the potentially dangerous animals without the services of specialised contractors, a meeting of the County Galway Joint Policing Committee was told this week.
However, the claim made by Chief Superintendent Tom Curley was denied by acting director of services Michael Raftery who told JPC members “the service is working” while nine local authorities, with Galway County Council the lead, continue a tendering process for new contractors.
While discussing the issue of stray horses at the JPC meeting on Monday, Chief Supt Curley told members: “When my people go out to take danger off the road we are deemed to be in charge. It’s at crisis stage for us. The old system is not working anymore. We have the number of a contractor. That service is not available to us as we speak. I have visited accidents where people have run into horses, and there has been horrific injuries caused. We’ve gone out and had to put stray horses on to private lands to avoid injury.” Supt Curley also warned that without a suitable service in place it could result in legal proceedings costing millions.
The Galway County Council faced with €29,386 deficit in horse seizure costs
The problem of the gardai being left without such vital services shocked many of the JPC members who were also told how the council carried out 321 horse lifts between January and December 2013. The expenditure for the first three quarters of the year amounted to €180,587 and the amount recouped from the Department of Agriculture was €150,201, leaving a deficit of €29,386. Mr Raftery further explained that the maximum amount recoupable from the Department is €450 per horse and the cost to the council is €700 plus VAT. The council is in the final stages of completing the tendering process for the removal of stray and wandering horses. He added that the cost “per lift” would remain at €700, that the “shortfall is going to be an on-going issue”, and that the problem of horses on public roads needs to be addressed on a national level in the form of a cull. The council currently has two veterinary officers who carry out welfare inspections, impound animals, and in some cases re-house them.
“This is a very serious issue,” said Fine Gael Councillor Jimmy McClearn, who added that its costs €70 to get a horse legalised, with the animal sometimes worth less than that, and if it is not registered before six months old it is deemed not fit for human consumption.
“We need to deal with the cost of registering. We’re dealing with an absolute epidemic. Three weeks ago, I received a call about horses on an island in the Shannon with no food, fodder, and the island was flooded because of the swell. No one knows who owns them. The person who called said the best thing to do was to shoot them from the bank, that’s how desperate the situation was,” said Cllr McClearn, who added that over the Christmas period he received another call about two horses found dead on the side of a road, believed to have been dumped there, with the council left to deal with the cost.
Criticising the Government for its failure to implement legislation that is in existence, Sinn Féin senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh noted that if Galway County Council had not been fully reimbursed then it contradicts what he was told by the Minister, that there would be full reimbursement. Senator Ó Clochartaigh then called on the director of service to write to the Minister in relation to this. He also described how someone was recently injured because of a stray horse on the Spiddal to Moycullen road.
“The tide is getting higher and stronger,” said Fianna Fáil councillor Malachy Noone, adding the Government will have to step in, carry out extensive examinations, and post notices asking for owners to come forward. He noted that even when a horse is microchipped there is no traceability.
Fianna Fáil councillor Mary Hoade then proposed the council request that the Department increases the amount that is recouped per horse, as “the council cannot carry the cost of €250 per horse”. This was echoed by Senator Ó Clochartaigh who vowed to raise the issue with the Minister this week, asking for the decision to cap the recoupment at €450 to be reversed.
Pointing out that the tendering process for a contractor should be about bringing down the cost, Cllr McClearn proposed that the signing of the contract be delayed until a proper report was made available. Mr Raftery told members that such a report would be made available in due course.