Irish plagued with cavalry of wild horses

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The Independent Online
By June extensive new powers will enable councils across the Irish Republic to crack the whip against urban cavalries of loose horses that terrify motorists by crashing through windscreens or charging into toddlers at play.

The measures, being examined by local authorities in the North-east of England, include compulsory licensing and registration and microchip tagging.

Owners will be charged for impounded horses and wandering ponies seized a number of times may be sold or put down. A key change will be banning children under 16 from buying or owning horses.

Though city horses evoke images of devil-may-care adolescents and quirky scenes of pie-bald nags grazing on front lawns such as seen in The Commitments and the children's film adventure Into the West,, the reality is often less comical.

Today "loose horses" warnings on main Dublin roads are a regular feature on traffic bulletins. The city's horse population has been estimated at close to 5,000.

The need for the new laws was driven by public anger at a series of horrific incidents in recent years. Several road accidents were caused by collisions, often at night, involving unattended animals.

Thursday saw the latest in a series of frightening accidents caused by ponies running into toddlers when a child suffered serious injuries after being dragged for 20 yards by a horse in Clondalkin in south-west Dublin.

Previous incidents have seen toddlers being kicked in the face.

The new laws were passed by the Dail in the New Year and will be enacted in the coming weeks. They will apply to urban centres rather than rural areas, so stud farms and working farm horses will not be affected.

Despite the clampdown, some claim benefits in city children learning about horses and in Dublin, experiments with stables in working-class areas have offered an alternative to the chaos of wandering ponies.

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