Mathews defends call for horse licensing scheme

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Larne councillor John Mathews has answered critics of his proposal to introduce a licensing scheme for horse owners.

Last week’s Larne Times letters page featured several owners who insisted there was already more than enough red tape and cost associated with current requirements for equine passports and microchipping. One correspondent asked if Larne Borough Council intended to go it alone with a new tier of bureaucracy?

This week, Cllr Mathews defended his call for a report on the feasibility of licensing.

“I brought this to the council, acting in the interest of responsible horse owners - of whom my wife is one and in the interest of the welfare of horses and donkeys owned by less responsible owners. It is also in the interest of rate payers, who will ultimately be left to pick up the bill for veterinary interventions after responsibility for animal welfare is passed on to councils,” said the Alliance representative.

“Four different organisations in Northern Ireland are responsible for issuing passports which help to identify horses and track ownership, but when it comes to welfare and the means of monitoring the welfare of horses and donkeys, the system is very sloppy and as far as I can see nobody is currently monitoring it, overseeing it, or challenging it. If local government is to take on the responsibility for welfare then it has be able to monitor it properly, so there must be clear, concise legislation and licensing.

“It would be inconceivable that Larne Council would take on a licensing scheme of its own. My suggestion was that council officers investigate and report back to the council and their findings forwarded to the Northern Ireland Local Government Association, hopefully to be adopted by all councils following consultation with all stake holders including horse owners, DARD and the PSNI.

“It would also be ridiculous to have a licence on top of the passport, but my point is that the passport scheme doesn’t seem to be adequately monitored, with the exception of valuable horses that are used for sporting purposes. Our concern should also be for the monitoring and protection of horses and donkeys that are further down the chain.”

Cllr Mathews added: “It is also in the interests of rate payers in Northern Ireland, who will have to take the financial hit for treatment of horses that are mistreated or abused, that there is clarity on in all of this.”