AN animal charity has expressed concerns about the welfare of horses in South Tyneside.
Figures from the RSPCA show that the number of calls from people worried about the welfare of horses being kept in the borough has increased since 2009.
In 2009, 46 calls were made to the charity, with the figure more than doubling in 2010 to 99.
In 2011, it dropped to 60, but rose to 78 last year.
In the wake of the horse meat scandal, the RSPCA is worried about the effectiveness of the horse passport system, which aims to keep track of animals for disease control.
The charity has found that three quarters of the horses it takes in do not have passports and are not microchipped, a legal requirement.
The organisation also says a lack of enforcement means owners don’t keep passports updated and many horses don’t have their details registered, which makes it more difficult to track down those responsible if there are concerns about the horse’s welfare.
RSPCA equine co-ordinator Chief Inspector Cathy Hyde said: “The passport system is failing and we estimate that 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.”
Last year, 146 people were served with a summons relating to horse welfare, compared to 119 in 2011, a 23 per cent rise.
The number of charges more than doubled, from 426 in 2011 to 779 in 2012.
The RSPCA received more than 23,000 complaints about horse welfare in 2012.