CALLS to the RSCPA from Wearsiders concerned for the welfare of horses have shot up, new statistics show.
The number of calls to the organisation about equine welfare in Sunderland went up from 91 in 2009 to 136 in 2010.
Although there was a small drop in the number of calls in 2011, to 119, the RSPCA says it received a total of 209 calls last year.
It means there were more than 550 calls from people worried about horses being cared for in the city over the past four years.
Nationally, the RSPCA received more than 23,000 complaints in 2012.
In the wake of the horsemeat scandal, the RSPCA is expressing its concern about the usefulness of the equine passport system, which aims to keep track of animals for disease control purposes.
The RSPCA has found that three-quarters of the horses they take in and care for do not have passports and are not microchipped, a legal requirement.
Officers say a lack of enforcement means that owners don’t keep passports updated and many horses aren’t microchipped or don’t have their up-to-date details registered. They are calling for the Government to toughen up enforcement laws.
RSPCA equine co-ordinator, Chief Inspector Cathy Hyde, said: “The passport system is failing and we estimate that a shocking 75 per cent of horses coming into RSPCA care are not microchipped.
“Passports are not updated and, without microchipping or a central database, there is no enforcement.
“Horses can change hands for a small amount of money and end up in the hands of irresponsible owners and traders.
“They can’t be traced back to their owners, making it very difficult to prosecute and try to stop these people keeping horses.”
Last year in England, 146 people were served with a summons relating to horse welfare, compared to 119 in 2011, a rise of 23 per cent.
The number of charges rose from 426 in 2011 to 779 last year.
Chief inspector Hyde added: “Our inspectors investigated more than 4,900 complaints involving equines in 2012 and are always working hard to improve the lives of those animals.
“Together with irresponsible breeding, many owners have ended up with too many horses that they either can’t or don’t want to look after.
“Some dealers have over 2,000 horses, the majority of which will not have passports.
“They need to be made accountable which proper enforcement of the passport system might help with.”