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SPCA concerned over fate of banned ponies

The Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) yesterday expressed serious concern over the threat of banned harness racing ponies being humanely destroyed by their owners as a means of cutting the costs of maintaining them in tough economic times.

It has been estimated that between four to eight harness racing ponies are destroyed each year locally, with one stable alleged to have put down as many as four ponies alone last year.

It is a practice that has long been a cause of concern for the SPCA.

Earlier this week The Royal Gazette revealed that three harness drivers had been banned for a year after failing random drugs test.

Driving Horse and Pony Club (DHPC) drug policy stipulates that when an owner's pony fails a drug test all the ponies they own are also banned from racing.

"The SPCA is very concerned about the owners' reaction to put down their ponies as a result of the one-year ban imposed on them for subjecting their animals to performance enhancing drugs," read an SPCA statement.

"This would appear to be a drastic approach to the situation and as so often is the case, the animal is really the one to suffer the consequence of their owner's irresponsible behaviour.

"We would strongly recommend that if an owner is seriously considering this option based on financial considerations, that they contact the SPCA as we will work with them to ensure the pony receives the food and care it requires during the period of the ban. Alternatively, they have the option to surrender the pony to us and we will find it another home.

"The SPCA endorses the drug testing procedure implemented by the DHPC and in no way wants to diminish the penalty system imposed on owners for drug enhancing their pony's performance.

"After speaking with Nick DeCosta (DHPC president) we have every confidence that the organisation will successfully work through this situation with its members, to ensure that penalties do not negatively affect the animals involved."