Lack of care and ill-health sees more SAASIC horses put down


Moving SA Army equine assets to a reasonably remote site north of Pretoria from Potchefstroom for better management has not worked and 13 horses have either died or been put down by National Council of SPCA (NSPCA) inspectors at the Rooiwal military facility.

“The NSPCA is appalled by the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) and its lack of ability to care for horses in its custody,” according to a statement issued by the national animal welfare body in South Africa.

“In April last year the NSPCA discovered horses starving to death in the care of the SA Army Special Infantry Capability (SAASIC) unit at the Potchefstroom base of the SANDF. Twenty-five horses were euthanased and charges laid in terms of the Animal Protection Act of 1962.

“Consultation and correspondence following this incident ensued between the NSPCA and the SANDF which resulted in the NSPCA moving 69 horses to a safe environment. The SANDF also publicly stated 60 of the remaining horses would be taken to Rooiwal. Correspondence was addressed to the Chief of the SANDF, General Solly Shoke, and Chief of the SA Army, Lieutenant General Lindile Yam, advising them the decision to relocate horses to Rooiwal was not in the best interest of the animals, but NSPCA concerns were ignored.

“Concerns included the high density of disease in the area, a lack of appropriate facilities to treat horses and that the property is located far from the Military Veterinary Institute.

“Of the 60 horses moved to Rooiwal, 47 remain. Thirteen horses died or have been euthanased since the rushed and ill-advised decision to move the horses. Prevalent diseases specific to this area such as African Horse Sickness, Equine Piroplasmosis and Equine Encephalosis Virus, precluded animal welfare organisations from re-homing horses there as the risk is too high. In addition, some SANDF horses have broken legs and some died of unknown causes,” the NSPCA statement said.

An officer in the SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) veterinary directorate last year told defenceWeb on condition of anonymity moving horses to Rooiwal was “not a good idea”. He cited distance from a military veterinary facility as one reason, notwithstanding the reasonable proximity of the University of Pretoria’s Onderstepoort Veterinary Faculty, as well as a high incidence of equine disease in the bushveld climate north of Pretoria.

Two weeks ago an NSPCA inspection at Rooiwal saw a horse in the terminal stages of African horse sickness put down. Since then NSPCA inspectors have twice been back to Rooiwal as a number of horses are infected with African horse sickness, Equine Piroplasmosis and Equine Encephalosis Virus.

According to the NSPCA, the national defence force’s “poor decision making as regards animal care has been a problem since 2011”. That situation saw a memorandum of understanding entered into without any real change taking place.

This situation needs ministerial intervention, the national animal welfare body notes “because we are ignored by the Chief of the Army”.

At the time of publication the SANDF had not responded to the NSPCA statement.