“Skeletal horse” scandal hits Lagoa again

In a repeat of last year’s horse scandal, seven horses were found this weekend on barren fields in Lagoa with “little food and no water”.

The animals belong to António Félix, the man who has been hitting headlines for three years now for animal abuse. Last year alone, “30 skeletal horses” were found in the same situation in Sítio das Cercas, Lagoa (click here).

Councillor Anabela Simão explained that “the local vet has already seen the horses and found at least one mare to be very skinny and malnourished”.

“The situation is not as bad as last year,” she told the Resident, adding however that Portugal’s veterinarian authority DGAV is expected to pick up the mare today (September 1).
Simão laments that the same problem happens year after year, with the council unable to act.

“Only DGAV can take measures against these situations. If it were a cat or a dog, we could act. But with the law as it is, our hands are tied,” she explained.

Photos and videos of the horses posted on social media have led to huge uproar, with an online petition, calling for all horses to be removed from Félix, already signed by nearly 2,200 people (click here).

Animal charities have also spoken up against the horse owner, calling for authorities to take action against Félix, who in 2012 had already been in the media spotlight over a similar case involving dogs, horses and donkeys.

“We have to pressure authorities, this kind of treatment of horses is atrocious and unacceptable,” said Christa Seiler-Stocker from the Swiss Mobile Veterinary Clinic (SMVC), which offers “free medical care and support” to animals in the Algarve.

She told us that SMVC is currently working with its lawyers to find a way to “take the horses away from the man”.

“We’re hard at work, we won’t let this case drop,” Christa guaranteed.

Efforts to save the horses were led last year by local horse charity Desperate Horsewives and Their Voice, in the centre of Portugal.

At the time, they thought of paying António Félix for his horses (they told us the man was asking for roughly €1,000 per horse), but they then dropped the idea as they feared it would only “encourage” animal cruelty by others.

This year, Their Voice says it is happy to see “other associations acting to help the Algarve horses”.

“We currently have two horses and a baby donkey that need 24-hour care,” the group said on its Facebook page, adding that it is “difficult for us to be there every day”.

“We have offered help and support if needed and are hoping this year will be a turning point for these poor horses that suffer so much every year,” the horse charity added.

If all goes as expected, DGAV will visit Lagoa today to rescue the mare and evaluate the health of the other horses.

By Michael Bruxo
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