All around the world, there are around 100 million working horses. In an ideal situation, each and every one of these animals should be treated respectfully and with compassion, to ensure that they are not suffering as a result of the duties they perform.
Unfortunately, this is very often not the case, especially in Third World countries. Sometimes these beasts of burden are denied one of their most basic needs, which is a good supply of clean, fresh drinking water (all the more important in hot climates). They can really suffer from dehydration and exhaustion otherwise, as was the case recently with the working horses of Malta, whose owners appealed to the World Animal Protection Society for help.
Since these animals work with the fierce Mediterranean sun beating down on them, they need watering frequently. But they suffer from insufficient access to water: at present, there is just one specific water point for the horses in Valletta, Malta’s capital. There were more of these formerly, but now, for different reasons, only one tap works properly. The owners need to give their horses frequent drinks, but at present are not able to easily access the one remaining water point.
The temperatures last summer shot up to over 40º C, and consequently the horse owners and local animal welfare organisations became concerned and asked for help from World Animal Protection. A veterinary assessment was done, which showed that the horses were generally healthy and in good condition, and did not have the sort of injuries which afflict many working animals. But they were somewhat dehydrated.
World Animal Protection approached the city authorities to raise their concerns about the horses’ thirst, but the authorities said that it was not their responsibility, that the horse owners should bring a sufficient amount of water with them while doing the rounds of the city with their animals. However, it is not practical for the owners to bring enough water with them in cans to last throughout the working day.
There are easy ways that the city could make it easier for the equines to be hydrated. One of these would be to re-establish or re-connect the former watering points for the horses, which are now out of use. World Animal Protection has made suggestions like this, which would not be expensive or difficult to implement, such as restoring a historic 400-year-old horse trough built by one of the Grand Masters of Malta, to its original purpose. Let us hope that these recommendations are acted upon without further delay.
Picture courtesy of www.care2causes.com