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Minister Smith Opens 86th Annual Connemara Pony Breeders Show

 -   Identification and Welfare of Horses Highlighted   -

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD officially opened the 86th  annual Connemara Pony Breeders Show in Clifden Co. Galway. The Connemara Pony Breeders Show is now part of a week-long celebration of the Connemara Pony with many side events taking place both in Clifden and in the wider Connemara area.

The Minister paid tribute to the Connemara Pony Breeders Society for "assembling an interesting and varied programme" for the Connemara Pony festival and he also acknowledged "the contribution of the local business community in Clifden for their support and enthusiasm in the annual Show".

The Minister stated that he was pleased that his "Department is in a position to continue to support the breed, through the Conservation of Genetic Resources (Rare Breeds) option in the Agri-Environmental Options Scheme (AEOS). This continues the support provided under similar options in the Rural Environmental Protection Schemes (REPS)". 

Minister Smith reminded owners of equines that it "is now a legal requirement for each equine, identified since July 1st 2009, to be implanted with a microchip and to have a passport issued from an approved studbook or horse passport agency, with the details relating to the animal recorded on a database maintained by the passport issuing body". The Minister also announced that, following consultations with the equine industry, he has decided that "the registration process will in future be completed by 31st December of the year of birth of the animal, or six months after its birth, whichever date occurs later".

In relation to the welfare of horses the Minister acknowledged the continuing high welfare standards being maintained by the vast majority of Irish horse owners.  However, he went on to say that "the recent incidents of neglect or cruelty that have been reported are regrettable and unacceptable - particularly within a country with such a proud equine tradition". Minister Smith said that he had recently received advice on this issue from the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Council (FAWAC) which includes representatives from his Department, the major equine stakeholder groups, animal welfare bodies and Veterinary Ireland. Minister Smith said that "The Council have identified to me a number of points which they believe need to be brought to the attention of and be implemented by those engaged in equine production in order to minimise and mitigate potential welfare problems: (i) firstly to recognise that unregistered horses have no potential long-term value, and could, in fact lead to significant costs and (ii) secondly where a horse is being sold, the seller must do his/her best to ensure that the person buying the horse has the capacity to take care of the animal and meet all its health and welfare needs.  Additionally, the Council have advised that in certain circumstances, unfortunately, the humane disposal of an equine may have to be considered".

Minister Smith went on to say that he would shortly be publishing the Council recommendations on horse welfare.

The Minister concluded by wishing "the Connemara Pony Breeders Society, the competitors, spectators and visitors here today, an enjoyable and successful Connemara Pony Breeders Show".

Date Released: 19 August 2010