Animal welfare, especially that of horses, appears not to rate a high priority in the SA Army. Confirmation of this comes with the National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) taking 69 horses away from a specialist land force unit.
The animal cruelty prevention organisation entered into a memorandum of understanding with the SA Army’s Specialised Infantry Corps (SAASIC) in 2013 regarding correct and proper care of horses it uses. The MOU was, according to Marcelle Meredith, NSPCA executive director, only signed in 2016.
Matters at the unit’s base in Potchefstroom came to a head earlier this year when horses were found to be dying of starvation. At the time Meredith said: “SAASIC failed to procure feed for their upkeep. The horses were forced to eat sol and their own faeces and their condition deteriorated perilously. Twenty-five horses were euthanased”.
The NPSCA has now taken 69 horses away from this unit with the assistance of New Turf Carriers and moved them to a large farm in Gauteng “where their needs will be adequately catered for”.
“Loading and transport of the horses went seamlessly and the horses were offloaded into a vast area completely different to the barren environment they came from. The farm has an infinite amount of space for the horses to roam freely with natural grazing, stables and abundant enrichment; shaded with trees and wide open spaces for the horses to enjoy sunshine and water sources providing a place for the horses to cool off and wallow in – it is an environment that offers the horses both physical and mental well-being.
“It was an emotional and moving experience to watch the horses exiting the truck and familiarising themselves with a new environment, seeing notable relief as they realised, with every step, they were in a place of safety, a place they would be free and cared for. The most humbling moment was when they allowed us to witness their delight by playing and splashing in water and rolling around in the grass, as if to acknowledge their freedom to be horses,” Meredith said.
defenceWeb has for the past month been attempting to find out what the status of SAASIC horses is. This follows the appointment of a board of inquiry as well as the military undertaking to move the horses to a site north of Pretoria, deemed more suitable for keeping animals.
Apart from being told the board of inquiry has completed its work and the report was undergoing a legal review, defenceWeb has had no response on recommendations made and actions to be taken.
Meredith said the relocated horses are up for adoption. “They are wild and have not known human touch and not all of them in in good condition. The kind of care, including veterinary care, they require is costly and a huge strain on already limited resources. If the public would like to contribute to the upkeep of these horses, they can visit https://nspca.co.za/donate/ and use the reference: Army Horses,” she said.
The NSPCA will continue to see the horses are adequately provided for and “receive the care not only required, but deserved,” she added.