Tougher ownership rules would help make sure the island’s horses and ponies are properly cared for, the Bermuda Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said yesterday.

Sarah Haycock, president of the SPCA, renewed the charity’s call for a register that would require owners to license their horses and ponies and provide proof of adequate accommodation.

The move came after the SPCA appealed for help to fund the retirement of Arthur and Charlie, a pair of malnourished former carriage horses rescued after an anonymous tip-off.

Inspector Chris Coleman, who found the horses, said: “When I first saw Arthur and Charlie, I was shocked at how skinny and frail they were — they had clearly been without food for days, if not weeks.

“We are glad that this story for Arthur and Charlie had a happy ending, but this is not always the case.”

Ms Haycock added: “The SPCA would like to see a horse and pony register that requires owners to license their horses annually and register that pony has a stall or shelter or some adequate protection.

“If we could have something like that, we would be in so much better shape. The welfare of the animals would at least be on the radar and we could follow up and do our job.”

The SPCA said it is estimated there are about 2,500 horses on the island and Ms Haycock said after-career care is a “big issue” in Bermuda.

Ms Haycock added: “I think the issue is that racing ponies have a much shorter life in terms of their career, so we have to address what happens to these ponies.

“We don’t know where half these ponies are because these ponies that are used and then discarded go into somebody’s backyard and we will never see them again. It is impossible to keep tabs on them.”

Ms Haycock said that unless the charity received a call about an animal that is being neglected or abused, “we don’t have the right to go and look on our own to just keep tabs on things”.

And she stressed that horses and ponies are not disposable and need care throughout their lives, including into their retirement.

The SPCA revealed yesterday that it had rescued Arthur and Charlie, who were found in “very poor condition” last month.

The horses, who are about 20 years old, were being kept in a cramped stall and were discovered in a malnourished state with skin and dental problems.

The SPCA said Arthur and Charlie dropped out of sight after they were retired from the carriage business and sold on to a new owner, although the SPCA tried to find out where they were.

SPCA staff visited them on-site after they were found and provided food for two weeks. The horses were later signed over to the charity by the owner. They have since been fostered with access to food, water, fields and fresh air. They have also had veterinary and dental care.

Ms Haycock said they are “remarkably affectionate and well-mannered” despite the conditions they endured.

Stabling costs and daily care for the horses have been donated by the SPCA and Ms Haycock appealed for donations to help keep them comfortable.

The SPCA said expenses for each horse per month will total $400 for hay, $20 for shavings for stabling, $20 for worming treatment and $80 for hoof care bills.

Other expenses will include veterinary and dental bills, as well as a one-off cost of $100 per horse for the rescue trailer.

Ms Haycock added that the police were not involved at this stage but she said the case was under investigation by their inspector and the charity would explore all options.

She said she could not provide further details to avoid prejudicing the inquiry.

By Lisa Simpson The Royal Gazette