Cab horses 'should be examined often'

Cab horses 'should be examined often'

Karozzini horses should be examined every six months to ensure they were being well looked after by their owners. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Karozzini horses should be examined every six months to ensure they were being well looked after by their owners. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Karozzini horses should be examined every six months to ensure they were being well looked after by their owners, two international animal welfare organisations have suggested.

The outcome of such an inspection could determine whether or not the owners' licence was renewed, the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) and the World Society for Traction Animal Welfare and Studies (Taws) recommended.

"Welfare experts, who were in Malta recently, found that most karozzini owners keep their animals well but there are a few exceptions. The inspection is in the interest of the 'good' owners, who have nothing to worry about, and the welfare of any possibly abused animals," said Myriam Kirmond, from the Animal Rights' Coalition that represents 21 local organisations.

Animal Welfare Department director Mario Spiteri said the suggestion to inspect the horses "could be worthwhile".

He agreed that, in general, karozzini owners treated their horses well and owned two or three, which they rotated to ensure the animals were not overworked.

Dr Spiteri said another way to protect horses from ill-treatment could be the imposition of stricter requirements, in terms of the horses' welfare, before cabby licences could be renewed.

A cabby owner explained that, in order to obtain a licence, owners had to pass a test and the authorities also considered the horse's condition through a veterinary report.

However, just like a car licence, when it was up for renewal, a fee was paid but the horse was not re-examined.

Taws veterinary surgeon Carl Boyde and Ramsay Hovell, a professor specialising in transport animals, were in Malta last November to inspect the condition of horses in various towns and villages.

They came at the request of WSPA, which was, in turn, responding to complaints by local NGO Animal Rights' Group.

After the inspection, the two Taws experts compiled a report, which was sent to the authorities. They found that most horses were "in good condition" and "up to standard".

However, they pointed out that regular veterinary inspections could "improve details in the grooming and harnesses of a few of them".

The experts stressed that horses did not have adequate shade and shelter, water points and hygiene facilities at stands where they waited for custom or rested.

This was particularly relevant at Valletta Waterfront where several carriages queued for custom from cruise liner passengers. Ms Kirmond pointed out that the Floriana council had issued a call for tenders for bins where horses' droppings could be placed at the waterfront. This would improve the hygiene aspect but shade remained a must.

Dr Spiteri said there were ongoing negotiations on the possibility of using a sheltered archway along the waterfront for the karozzini.

In the report, the experts referred to the protective cloth the department was insisting should be worn by all horses to protect them from the sun while out and about in summer. Shelter should also be provided at all cab stands.

Earlier this month, the department said that, once the temperature soared above 20˚C, it would be enforcing regulations obliging horse owners to provide the animals with shelter and drinking water in the heat. This applied to karozzini owners who had to cover their horses with a protective cloth according to regulations that came into force last summer. This had spurred controversy among animal organisations that were concerned that the protective cloth was not ideal to ensure and safeguard the well-being of cab horses.

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