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Plight of ponies is cause for concern

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This a picture of a pony, which some call Josie, that had not been cared for properly and had little room to move around and had open soars on her head. Passersby became concerned about the racing pony and complained to the SPCA, who recently seized the animal and say it is now safely in their care.

The SPCA has investigated at least seven instances this year where racing ponies have been traded or swapped to owners without knowledge of how to properly care for them.

Director Kim Sherlaw said the animals were given up because they were unsuitable for pony racing.

In their haste to get rid of them the owners passed the ponies on to anyone who was interested and many suffered from negligence or improper care, Ms Sherlaw said.

The most recent example was a two-year-old pony which was seized from its owners last Thursday.

Complaints poured in to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) about the animal.

She was allegedly living with barely enough room to move, covered in excrement and mud and with open wounds on her head.

The pony was seized with a warrant obtained by the SPCA under the Care and Protection of Animals Act and is now in the care of the society.

"Basically we have responded to the public complaints and we have temporarily seized the animal," said Ms Sherlaw.

"It is in our care and we are working with the owners to make corrective changes to the animal's living environment or care. I can't comment on whether the animal will be returned, but we have responded and she is safe and in our care.

"There is a bigger issue that surrounds us and that is the racing pony issue. These animals are over-bred and they get traded and swapped and given off to people that do not have the proper experience or who are not seeking the appropriate veterinarian care."

She said two ponies seized from a farm owner in St. George's were in such poor condition they had to be put down.

Another named Trixie was put up for sale on the classified website Emoo.com four months ago. The animal protection group was concerned the animal would end up in the wrong hands and have since been paying for the animal's board until a suitable placement can be found.

An experienced equestrian who spoke to this paper said it wasn't an issue of over breeding. Many times people's ponies did not work out for racing because they were either too big or too small or the animals simply did not like their job, he said.

"I think the owners look to find homes for them with people that take them as a pet or for pleasure or whatever it may be. But it seems as though a lot of places they go to have not been caring for them properly.

"I think the people that do get rid of them do not do it with bad intentions," added the man, who did not want to be named.

The equestrian said racing ponies in other countries were sold as buggy horses for the Amish, which "works out very well".

However in Bermuda there were fewer options and while he has tried to scrutinise who and where the ponies were going, he admitted he couldn't speak for everyone.

According to Ms Sherlaw, taking care of ponies and horses is something you need to be very dedicated to. "It is expensive and they need their proper environment," she said.

Most of the ponies seized by the SPCA have lacked suitable upkeep such as necessary hoof and dental cleaning, improper feed or not enough food. They often live in areas with not enough room, a lack of shade or unsafe enclosures, she added.

The SPCA is hoping to establish a database for all horses and ponies on the Island so that they can keep an eye on animals being transferred.

Anyone that is looking to get rid of a pony, or who feels they can provide one with a good home, is encouraged to call the SPCA on 236-7333.

What's in the future? A pony, now being cared for by the SPCA, stares into a photographer's camera. The SPCA is investigating a number of cases of former racing ponies winding up in the hands of new owners who do not know how to properly care for them.