An Unexpected End
If the real estate and debt disaster in Ireland have filled the front pages of the most important news papers around the world, another unexpected consequence of the economic recession is the abandonment of horses.
During Ireland’s boom years, indeed, thousands of people bought horses as a status symbol but since incomes have been reducing, a lot of horses are being abandoned on public land. Their upkeep, nowadays, costs around €30 and more per day, too much for people who are losing their jobs.
The Dublin Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA) and the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA) estimate that around 20,000 horses are roaming abandoned in the countryside. Most of them have contracted diseases and in 2010 “49 horses had to be shot or put to sleep, more than ever before,” said Orla Aungier, manager of the DSPCA. Two places in Dublin are becoming the symbols of this drastic situation. The first is Smithfield Horse Market situated in an old area of Dublin City and the other is the Dunsink Dump in North County Dublin.
Smithfield Horse Market is an unlicensed and unregulated market. Here, every first Sunday of the month anyone, often teenagers and children without any knowledge of equine care, can easily buy horses for as little as €10 or by swapping them for mobile phones or high tech objects. Children often ride around the market on these horses without saddles and stage races on the cobblestone. The police rarely intervene.
Another place where it is possible to measure the dimension of the problem is the Dunsink Dump where the many concrete venting pipes filter dangerous gases from the tonnes of decomposing rubbish underneath into the atmosphere. Here it is possible to find dozens and dozens of abandoned horses and ponies left, often at night time, by owners that can no longer afford them.