LOUTH County Council have completed the process of removing ponies from the Cooley Mountains, animals which may now be destroyed.
Some have claimed the horses are a nuisance, while others say they are a tourist attraction and a great addition to the character of the mountain commonage.
Louth County Council has however implemented bye-laws declaring the Cooley commonage a “control area” where all horses need to be micro-chipped and licensed.
And on Wednesday morning last trucks were seen in the mountains, attempting to round-up the horses.
Speaking to the Dundalk Democrat Cheif Vet with Louth County Council, Garrett Shine explained: “It’s a joint operation between us (Louth County Council) and the Department of Agriculture.
“Animals that we are unable to identify via passports or through lack of a micro-chips will be taken off the mountain and held for a certain amount of time,” said Mr Shine. “The animals are being removed because they are in breach of the Control of Horses Act.”
When asked if the ponies may be destroyed, he replied: “No decision has yet been made on what will then happen to them.”
A local man, Michael Murphy, has told the Democrat that he fears some of his horses will now be removed.
“The council began microchipping my ponies a few years ago, but then stopped suddenly. All my ponies are insured and have a right to be in the commonage area.”
“I would also point out that the trucks that were used to take these horses were not suitable and it would have been distressing for the animals, some of which would never have been in a horse box in their lives. Some of the boxes were sheep trailers. The animlas were transported to Kilkenny like this and it was cruel. Some the ponies were in foal too.”
What’s more, Mr Murphy has now given an open invitation for anyone to prove that the horses are causing the problems that have been claimed.
“I challenge these people to produce evidence to substantiate their claims such as Garda reports or complaints made, photographic evidence, name of the vet who treated the animlas, and the names and addresses of the hillwalkers who were attacked by stallions. This also includes the owners of horses which graze on the mountain who were interviewed by Garda or others, ISPCA included, regarding the mistreatment and abuse of their animals.”
Elaine Duffy from Holly’s Horse Haven says she has been told that people have been menaced by stallions.
“Our volunteers have been attacked on a number of occasions, and some people have been left in severe distress. Mr Murphy has been to our offices and we have told him this.”
The Government The Control of Horses Act, 1996 provides extensive powers to local authorities, including powers for the enactment of bye-laws for the control and welfare of horses in the local authorities functional area.
Speaking in relation to Cooley Mountains horses, Minister Simon Coveney said: “My Department provides financial support to local authorities to assist their work in implementing the Act. Louth County Council has made bye-laws declaring the Cooley commonage a “control area” where all horses need to be micro-chipped and licensed.”
In an official statement the council said: “In a joint operation between the veterinary office of Louth County Council and the Department of Agriculture a number of horses were seized from the Cooley Commonage region. The reasons for this action was due to non-compliance with EU & National Legislation regarding horse identification and Byelaws regarding horse licenses in a control area.”
A meeting has been convened for this Thursday at the Granvue Hotel in Omeath at 8.30pm for local people who are concerned at what has happened. Deputy Gerry Adams has been invited to attend.