Limerick councillors back in the saddle over horse control

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M7 horseTHERE was yea-ing and neighing aplenty, mostly neighing, at City Hall this week as the serious issue of horse control was taken out for another gallop around the council chambers.

A special meeting was called to address the persistent problem of stray and abandoned horses in the city ahead of the imminent amalgamation of Limerick City and County Councils.

Following the local elections this May, new bye-laws on the control of horses will be drafted and senior executive officer Christy O’Connor described last Monday’s special meeting as an opportunity to “look for a fresh approach”.

“The control of horses has been a problem for 40 years. We’ve not been successful in this area and there’s been huge expenditure. This is the start of a process and series of talks to get various bodies to look at new bye-laws for the new Council,” Mr O’Connor explained.

In 2013 a total of 222 stray horses were impounded in Limerick at a cost of €280,000 to the local authority. The number of horses rounded up nationwide last year came to 4,700.

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City Council veterinary officer John McCarthy said that horses at the lower end of the market had “no financial value” so they were not properly looked after. He warned those that mistreat horses that the animals were now protected under the new Animal Health and Welfare Act.

Cllr Maurice Quinlivan (SF) said the current bye-laws were “ridiculous” as not one single horse license had ever been bought in the city.

“There’s a number of people out there who look after horses very well and then there’s others who shouldn’t be allowed look after anything. I know a man that bought two horses for a wrench recently. Farmers are also coming into estates in the city and just leaving their horses behind,” Cllr Quinlivan claimed.

The Sinn Fein councillor also asked council members if they had ever been on the Ballysimon Road and not seen a sulky?

“I’ve never been on the Ballysimon Road and not seen a sulky. I was up there on Saturday and it was the first thing I saw. We’re 40 years at this problem and there’s been no progress,” he declared.

Labour councillor Orla McLoughlin expressed her frustration over the lack of movement at City Council level on resolving the issue of horse control in Limerick. She said she was also disappointed at the lack of Garda presence at the meeting.

“There’s a large piece of the jigsaw missing. The Gardai should be present on the law enforcement angle so we can have some joint-up thinking. I was reluctant to come to this meeting as we always treat this issue so casually. We would want to up our game.

“Horses are dying a death and my heart is broken from it. There’s kids out there that want horses for birthday and Christmas presents. It’s like the saying that dogs are not for Christmas, the same goes for horses,” she declared.

Cllr John Gilligan told Cllr McLoughlin that he shared her frustration over the issue of the control of horses.

“Noah was a boy when we started talking about the control of horses. We never do anything, just talk about it,” said Cllr Gilligan.

Independent councillor Gerry McLoughlin said he had heard no solutions from any of his fellow council members, including his own daughter.

“Who’s running this show? Someone should have called the guards,” said Cllr McLoughlin.

“I’m not happy. Ten years I’m listening to this and I’m just sick of it. I’m not listening to this bullshit anymore,” he added.

Senior executive officer Christy O’Connor told Mr McLoughlin that it would take three to four weeks to organise a meeting with the Gardai.

“We need a longer lead-in time to organise that, but it’s not a problem,” he said.

“I’m not shooting you, I’m shooting City Council,” Cllr McLoughlin replied.

Cllr Jim Long (FG) said that the local authority would first need to identify the number of horses in the city, and secondly, look at how those animals would be catered for under the new bye-laws.