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Locals furious over horse tragedy

By Natasha Smith and Ruth Sharpe

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A GROUP of residents who went to the aid of a distressed horse were accused by its owner of theft of a rope after removing it from the horse. The rope was used to bind the animals front legs together.

The group, said to be upset and outraged at the horse’s treatment, were asked to present themselves at the police station, where they were asked to give an account of their actions. No charges were brought against  the group.

The mare was found on the morning of September 10 in Vale de Lama on the outskirts of Lagos by a woman who was walking through a field.

She had fallen into a shallow ditch and was unable to regain her footing. Her head was also in an unusual position, which suggested that her neck may have been dislocated, and she had sustained injuries during her fall.

Bridget Hicks, who established the Lagos Animal Protection Society (LAPS) in 1980, contacted The Resident to relate the events.

She said the woman who found the mare immediately called on nearby residents, the local GNR and her local veterinarian. The bombeiros were also alerted, but failed to answer the call.

The rope was removed from its legsbut the mare made little attempt to get up. Shortly afterwards, the owner of the horse appeared at the scene, but refused to allow the animal to be put out of its misery.

As well as the injuries caused during her fall, the mare had many healed wounds, suggesting mistreatment in the past.

Despite the horse being in distress, the vet was unwilling to put the animal down because she feared the horse’s owner would press criminal charges against her.

The horse lay in the heat until a wet blanket was placed over her and she was given water by concerned locals.

With the GNR unsure of what action to take, the situation had not been resolved by the evening and the horse was left in the ditch.

The GNR returned to the scene the next morning, September 11, and the municipal vet, Dr Sousa, was called.

He attempted to convince the horse’s owner to allow the animal to be put down, but was refused.

The situation worsened with the discovery that the horse was seven months pregnant.

The foetus was still alive at 1pm and the vet said there was a chance that if the owner had allowed the horse to be put down the unborn foal could have been saved.

Eventually a vet from Faro, Dr Catalão, was called to the scene in an attempt to convince the owner of the mare to allow them to put her down.

Permission was finally given and the animal put down at 4.30pm, almost 32 hours after she was discovered. The foal was dead.

According to people at the scene, the owner showed no remorse for his actions, caring only for a missing piece of rope.

Bridget Hicks said she is furious that there has been no prosecutions for animal cruelty in the Algarve over the last 10 years.

“These owners will inevitably continue to be cruel to animals if they can get away with it. It seems that one can be prosecuted for any misdemeanour except cruelty to animals,” she told The Resident.

Mrs Hicks believes that this latest incident calls into question the ethics of the veterinary associations.

She believes that they should be allowed to use their professional discretion when an animal is in such a condition and experiencing such pain.

“What rights do animals have and who will speak on their behalf?” she asks.

Some of the people who witnessed the events that took place were so upset and enraged by the situation that they are considering taking the owner of the mare to court. Residents at the scene were appalled that the police did so little to help the horse.

Mrs Hicks said: “We, as fellow human beings and lovers of animals are in shock and at a loss to understand why this cruelty is allowed. Where are the authorities and why do they turn a blind eye?”

She added that “we are supposed to be living in a civilised country with EU health and safety guidelines. Why does the law protect cruel animal owners?”

If you have been affected by this story, or been in a similar situation e-mail [email protected]

LAPS has rescued and hand reared at least 342 animals in the last six years.